Virginia project shows what is possible and why government incentives help
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA — The midterm election is less than 8 weeks away.
One topic you might not think of is the future of renewable energy and how energy gets produced in this country.
Does it involve more drilling for oil or does it involve new technologies like wind turbines?
Covering the future of energy isn't easy. At times, it even requires a boat.
That is especially true when it comes to covering offshore wind energy.
And traveling nearly 30 miles off the coast of Virginia, one of the largest federal leases to build offshore wind turbines anywhere in the country is found in action.
John Larson, the Director of Public Policy for Dominion Energy, is the tour guide on a two-hour journey from Virginia Beach.
"These are decade-long projects," Larson tells the crowd of mostly Dominion employees and environmental activists who have been invited on the boat ride.
Larson says if a wind turbine project gets approved at your favorite beach one day there is a good chance the lessons learned from this project will impact it.
The federal government approved this as a research lease with the goal to one day have nearly 200 turbines powering over 600,000 homes.
"If you come back in a couple of years at the end of 2026 you would see a total of 178 turbines out here," Larson said.
WHY POLITICS MATTER
You might not think your vote impacts projects like this, but it does.
That's because building and maintaining wind turbines isn't cheap. The total cost of this project is approaching $10 billion, with each turbine only expected to last 30 years.
Incentives passed by Congress often encourage companies to take on projects like this – which is why control of Congress matters.
"What do you say to the critics who say this is a lot of money and time and there are cheaper ways to power people's homes," Larson said.
"This is the most transformational time for the energy industry since they began stringing electric wires to power people's homes and businesses," he said.
"We have to have a diverse portfolio as we move forward," Larson added.
To be clear Larson isn't political and Dominion is committed to finishing this project regardless of who wins.
However, he says when utility companies get their energy from a variety of sources that can mean cheaper bills for you, especially when oil markets spike.
"It takes away the volatility of fuel," Larson added.
WHERE THINGS STAND
As far as the politics of this, it's not as if Republicans are completely against wind projects, although votes do matter.
Not a single Republican voted for the Inflation Reduction Act this summer, which provided billions of dollars worth of incentives to build turbines.
This election, many conservatives are campaigning on traditional oil and gas production in the United States, which can be cheaper, as a way to bring down the price of gas instead.
Former President Donald Trump has even spoken up -- posting online recently some reasons as to why he is against wind turbines.
"Our eagles, and all other birds, are being decimated by the Chinese-built windmills. World's most costly energy," Trump wrote on Truth Social last month.
IMPACT ON BIRDS
Scott Lawton oversees environmental issues for Dominion and says their turbines are equipped with cameras and antennas to detect bird strikes.
"You don't see a lot of avian activity," Lawton said.
"We've been monitoring for almost two years now we've had no observed impacts," Lawton added.
So as you prepare to vote this election, know that your vote matters and impacts which way the political winds blow.
"It's not cheap and it's not free to build these things," Larson said.
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