James Madison University

Where Is The Wind In Virginia?

It is often stated that Virginia doesn’t have a good wind resource. This is false- with advances in technology in the past decade, what used to be perceived as a slight wind resource is now capable of producing substantial wind power. Virginia has an especially good wind resource offshore- up to 18,890 MW capacity at 90m hub height. The onshore capacity is also good- approximately 1,793MW at 80m hub height. As you can see from the image below, the best wind resources are located on mountain ridges, along the coastline, and in offshore waters. Generally, 5m/s annual average wind speeds are sufficient to support a residential-scale turbine at 30m (equivalent to 6m/s at 80m on the map below), and 7m/s annual average wind speeds at 80m are preferred for community-scale turbines and larger. Click here to learn more about the different scales of wind energy.

Virginia's wind resource at 80m

Fig. 1. Virginia's Wind Resource at 80m

Virginia's offshore lease area - 25 miles offshore

Fig. 2. Virginia's Offshore Lease Area ~ 25 miles offshore

Despite Virginia having a promising onshore and offshore wind resource, there are currently no megawatt size installations in the Commonwealth. The largest installed turbine is a 10kW, a residential sized system. So if there is a good wind resource and costs have come down significantly through the years, why are there no “big” turbines you ask? Virginia has been a “stuck” state for years, but there are incentives and policies now that will hopefully jump-start the MW scale development process. One of these policies is the new PPA regulation. View our local planning page to learn more.

Even though Virginia doesn’t have any MW scale turbines deployed yet, there are however over 80 residential-sized systems installed in the Commonwealth. Coming soon! A map of residential-scale turbine locations in Virginia.

Virginia also has several barriers to development, including the inexpensive cost of energy; much of the good wind resource is located on protected lands; a voluntary Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) rather than a mandatory standard; unfavorable market conditions; and policies that do not address/evaluate renewable energy in the same way as conventional energy sources, among other barriers.

Another challenge in Virginia is that much of the good wind resource is located in federal lands, which traditionally haven’t been able to be developed. With the release of the Presidents new Climate Change Action Plan, that may change in the near future as well.

Previously, permitting in Virginia was confusing and cumbersome at best, but in recent years a DEQ Committee with input from stakeholders revised the permitting process and we now have a more streamlined, clear process to follow for each scale of wind power. Learn more about Virginia’s model ordinances and permitting processes.

Despite these challenges, some developers are interested in developing projects in Virginia. Among these are Dominion (offshore), Apex Wind Energy, EDP Renewables, and Highland New Wind Project. A majority of these projects prospected are along the mountains bordering West Virginia. Only one project in Virginia is currently permitted, in Highland County.