Opinion: Kitty Hawk wind initiative will be a boon to Virginia

Twenty-seven miles from Virginia Beach, two turbines gently spin in the coastal breeze, generating enough electricity to power 7,500 homes. Too far from shore to be seen, these turbines represent a major step in the United States’ energy transition. Hundreds of turbines spanning dozens of projects along the Atlantic Coast will join these towers soon, including Avangrid Renewables’ Kitty Hawk North Wind Project.

Kitty Hawk comprises a 200-square-mile wind energy area, which sits 36 nautical miles from Virginia’s shores. It was defined through deep collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense and local fishing communities. Like other offshore wind projects along the Atlantic Coast, its turbines are expected to provide a base for a bustling, artificial reef ecosystem for mussels, flounders, black sea bass and other commercially valuable species. Slated for operation by 2030, Kitty Hawk will produce up to 3,500 MW of fuel-free electricity, equal to about 1.5 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided. Given Virginia Beach’s vulnerability to rising sea levels, this project would be a major asset toward mitigation.

Beyond these massive environmental perks, Virginia Beach will experience significant economic development because of Kitty Hawk. Avangrid is expected to spend $808 million in Hampton Roads over the course of the project, much of which will support local labor and supply chain development. In turn, investments are expected to create nearly 800 jobs across Virginia, increasing Hampton Roads household earnings by $273 million.

These jobs will be localized to Hampton Roads. With the renewable energy industry, particularly wind, employing 67% more veterans than the national average, this project is well poised to support Virginia’s communities. Transitioning service members and maritime workers possess the skills and qualities that are mission critical for these projects: risk mitigation, teamwork and dedication. Kitty Hawk is part of a long and stable pipeline of offshore wind projects that will help create well-paying employment opportunities for decades to come. As southeastern Virginia continues to establish itself as a manufacturing hub for this industry, securing manufacturers such as Siemens Gamesa, the commonwealth will produce offshore wind components that will be used in waters throughout the Atlantic and beyond.

Avangrid Renewables has worked closely with state, city and community leaders throughout the project development process to ensure the maximization of job opportunities to Virginia Beach. Now, the project faces a vote from City Council, which will decide whether the project will come onshore in the Sandbridge neighborhood of Virginia Beach and bring its myriad of benefits to residents. Taking into account other ocean users, Sandbridge is the most reasonable location for the project. Running beneath existing parking lots and pathways, transmission lines will parallel those from other utility and infrastructure projects. While residents can expect minor, temporary disruption, all roadways will remain accessible, and inconveniences are far outweighed by the tremendous benefits that Kitty Hawk will bring to the region. This is our chance to support in-state clean energy to fuel our economy and ensure a healthy environment for future generations.

Bipartisan city, state and federal officials have all expressed outright support for offshore wind. Understanding the breadth and depth of advantages that Kitty Hawk and other wind projects will bring to Virginia, residents of Hampton Roads are encouraged to reach out to city councilors, neighbors and community members to express support for this milestone of American offshore wind.

Hailey Deres is a program associate with the Southeastern Wind Coalition, a nonprofit that supports wind energy development through research, education and outreach. She leads SEWC’s work in Virginia.

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