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Group of Sandbridge residents oppose wind energy cable landing as Avangrid makes another pitch

The Virginian-Pilot|Stacy Parker|March 25, 2024
VirginiaOffshore WindTransmission

Avangrid Renewables recently renewed its pitch to the City Council for easements needed to connect its offshore wind project to the grid. But Sandbridge residents who oppose the cable landfall in their neighborhood still have unanswered questions about the proposal.


VIRGINIA BEACH — Avangrid Renewables recently renewed its pitch to the City Council for easements needed to connect its offshore wind project to the grid. But Sandbridge residents who oppose the cable landfall in their neighborhood still have unanswered questions about the proposal.

In November, City Manager Patrick Duhaney and Mayor Bobby Dyer told Avangrid officials there wasn’t support for the Sandbridge landing, given the amount of community pushback. But the company is forging on and trying to reopen dialogue with the city.

Ken Kimmell, Avangrid’s chief development officer, wrote a letter and provided a new economic impact report on the Kitty Hawk offshore wind project to the City Council March 7 in hopes they’ll reconsider it.

“There…

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VIRGINIA BEACH — Avangrid Renewables recently renewed its pitch to the City Council for easements needed to connect its offshore wind project to the grid. But Sandbridge residents who oppose the cable landfall in their neighborhood still have unanswered questions about the proposal.

In November, City Manager Patrick Duhaney and Mayor Bobby Dyer told Avangrid officials there wasn’t support for the Sandbridge landing, given the amount of community pushback. But the company is forging on and trying to reopen dialogue with the city.

Ken Kimmell, Avangrid’s chief development officer, wrote a letter and provided a new economic impact report on the Kitty Hawk offshore wind project to the City Council March 7 in hopes they’ll reconsider it.

“There’s pushback of some level, I think, from residents of the landings all up and down the East Coast,” Kimmell recently told The Virginian-Pilot. “There’s nothing unusual about that.”

Avangrid secured the rights to develop a 122,405-acre lease area about 27 miles off the coast of the Outer Banks for $9 million in 2017. The Kitty Hawk offshore wind project is currently moving through the federal permitting process with a goal of being operational in the early 2030s. But to bring the energy it generates ashore, the project needs to secure a site where transmission cables can come aground.

Avangrid has offered Virginia Beach $4.5 million for the easements needed for six energy transmission cables; $8 million for city-owned land for substations; and $1 million every five years for Sandbridge projects, according to Kimmel’s letter.

Kimmell promised more community outreach.

“We believe we can do a more robust job of sharing information, countering misinformation, listening to the needs of the community, and finding common ground,” Kimmell wrote in the letter.

Virginia Beach has not yet taken a formal vote on the easements. Over the last year, several neighborhoods that would be impacted by the cable route are aligning with Protect Sandbridge Beach Coalition, a group of residents who oppose the landfall.

“We’re basically just a group of private citizens that, when we found out about Kitty Hawk the project and the potential landfall in Sandbridge in 2022, chose to go out and educate ourselves on it because we weren’t getting a lot of feedback from the company,” said the coalition’s spokesperson, Joe Bourne.

The group has met with City Council members and wants an independent study of Avangrid’s cable landing and route.

“We’re not opposing offshore wind; we’re questioning the site selection for landfall and cable routing and making sure that’s being done in a way that has the least impact on communities and the environment,” Bourne said. “Today, we’re not convinced that a Sandbridge landfall will actually accomplish that; in fact, we think it causes more issues than it actually resolves.”

The cables would come ashore in the public parking lot at the end of Sandbridge Road, behind Sandbridge Seaside Market.

Michelle Clough, a Lagomar resident, heard about the project through a fellow book club member who lives in Sandbridge and became concerned about how the parking lot will be affected by the underground cables.

“That’s really our only access to Sandbridge Beach; that’s our little part of Sandbridge,” said Clough. “What happens if it breaks, what happens if it needs maintenance?”

The Sandbridge Beach Civic League voted against the cable landing in 2022, and members have no plans to reverse their vote as they wait for their questions to be answered, said President Elaine Fekete.

One question is whether the offshore transmission cables could block sand borrow areas offshore that are used for Sandbridge beach renourishment. The civic league also wants to know if construction could limit access to their secluded neighborhood, which is accessed by one main road.

“What’s going happen to our roadways (during construction)?” asked Fekete. “We already are trapped when there’s an accident on Sandbridge Road.”

The amount of time it will take to build the landfall for six cables is also on their radar. Croatan, another Virginia Beach neighborhood, is currently dealing with headaches from construction of Dominion Energy’s offshore wind cable landing site. Noise coming from the land work is spreading farther than anticipated, and Dominion is having to make adjustments to mitigate the problem.

Avangrid estimates the Kitty Hawk project will be able to generate up to 3,500 megawatts of electricity to power 1 million homes and businesses in Virginia and North Carolina. The project would be built in two phases with a total of 176 wind turbines off of North Carolina’s coast.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is currently conducting an environmental review of the proposed project and reasonable alternatives.

The first phase, called the Kitty Hawk North Wind Project, would have 69 wind turbine generators, one offshore substation, up to two transmission cables making landfall in Virginia Beach and an onshore substation. Avangrid is actively seeking one or more power purchase agreements for the project.

Avangrid has said North Carolina’s beaches aren’t stable for a landing site due to erosion and lack sufficient transmission infrastructure. Sandbridge is the company’s preference because it’s the shortest of the northern cable routes and doesn’t cross any existing submarine cables, according to the company.

Council member Barbara Henley, who represents Sandbridge, doesn’t support the Sandbridge landing, and Vice Mayor Rosemary said last week she also still opposes it.

“More so than ever, especially with what I’ve seen Croatan’s going through,” Wilson said. “I’m not changing my mind no matter what they (Avangrid) say or do.”

Councilman Chris Taylor recently said at a meeting that any future discussions about the Kitty Hawk project should be held publicly.

Kimmell said Avangrid officials want to meet with the City Council again soon.

“Part of our job is to continue to get the science and the facts out there,” Kimmell said.


Source:https://www.pilotonline.com/2…

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