Essay by Eric Worrall
h/t M; While the Virginia SCC is “keenly aware of the ongoing rise in gas prices, inflation, and other economic pressures”, they have to obey the legislature.
The Spinning of Virginia’s Wind Farm
If the weather doesn’t cooperate, Dominion wants consumers to pay.
By The Editorial Board
Dominion Energy plans to build 176 wind turbines 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. That’s enough to power about 660,000 homes. The capital cost is $9.8 billion. The state Corporation Commission assented to a related rate increase, but it noted that the downside risk is on consumers. Typically, the commission says, a utility might buy such power from an outside developer, “which limits the risks to customers.” Yet Dominion “has chosen to construct, own and operate the Project.”
What could go wrong? The commission says that “designs for various components of these turbines” have “yet to be finalized.” Because offshore wind at this scale is new to the U.S., “there is no developed supply chain,” which “could lead to construction delays and cost overruns.” What if it falls through for some reason? “Even if the Project is abandoned at the end of 2023,” the order says, “Dominion still estimates it would have prudently incurred approximately $3.7 billion of costs to be recovered from customers.”
So why approve the wind farm at all? Because the state Legislature mandated that such an offshore project “is in the public interest, and the Commission shall so find.” The commission’s order sounds nearly apologetic in saying that regulators are “keenly aware of the ongoing rise in gas prices, inflation, and other economic pressures,” but “this is a prescriptive statute.”
Virginia doesn’t get hammered as hard by hurricanes as Florida and South Carolina, but the Virginia coastline still gets a good battering every few years, so I don’t expect the offshore turbines to last long.
None of this matters to the Virginia legislators, who left the SCC no choice other than to grant a rate rise to pay for this white elephant.
The only people who can fix this mess are Virginia voters, who have one chance this November to vote for new legislators who will stop this politically imposed power bill blowout. Of course November will not be soon enough to avoid all the electricity bill surcharges – Dominion have already said they will charge $3.7 billion if the project is cancelled.