James Madison University

Virginia Coastal Energy Research

Consortium (VCERC)

The Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium (VCERC) was created in 2007 to serve as an interdisciplinary study, research and information resource for the Commonwealth on coastal energy issues. VCERC provides the research and development required for the commercialization and implementation of renewable energy, specifically algal biomass, wind and wave resources in Virginia.

VCERC is governed by a board of fourteen members – with representatives from the eight partner universities and six government and industry partners. For more information, visit www.vcerc.org

Virginia Offshore Wind Studies July 2007 to March 2010

The Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium performed three separate major offshore wind research projects from July 2007 to March 2010, which were compiled into a final report later that year.

VCERC graph 1 VCERC graph 2 VCERC map 1 VCERC map 1

Research Project 1 - Feasibility-Level Design and Economic Assessment for a Reference Baseline Offshore Wind Power Project

This research project was led by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Estimates of the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) in March 2008 dollars of a 588-MW offshore wind project compared to LCOE of similarly-sized coal-fired and combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants were made;

  • Offshore Wind: $105-130
  • Coal: $85-100 per MWh
  • CCGT: $80-100 per MWh

You can see these comparisons graphically in the two charts to the left. The study assumed that the offshore wind project was constructed using 3-MW turbines with 90-meter diameters, constructed in the part of the Virginia Wind Energy Area in the map.

Research Project 2 - Preliminary Mapping of Offshore Areas

Through collaboration led by James Madison University, a large geospatial database of more than 25 data layers was compiled. The main organizations that contributed data and/or shape files to this project included the U.S. Minerals Management Service (now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement), the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the U.S. Navy, the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, and the Nature Conservancy.

Avoiding conflicting uses such as shipping lanes, Navy live-ordnance training ranges, a space launch hazard area, and dredge spoil disposal sites, VCERC has identified 25 OCS lease blocks of entirely Class 6 winds beyond 12 nautical miles offshore (the approximate visual horizon), in water depths less than 30 m (suitable for commercially available monopile foundations), which could support approximately 3,200 MW of offshore wind farm capacity. Assuming an array efficiency of 89%, these 25 lease blocks could generate 11 million megawatt-hours per year or approximately 10% of Virginia’s annual electricity consumption.

Research Project 3 - Evaluation of Economic Development Potential

VCERC has identified 25 lease blocks with 3,200 MW of potential offshore wind capacity in relatively shallow Class 6 waters beyond the visual horizon. Build-out of this potential would require a total of 125,000 job-years, including direct, indirect, and induced jobs, assuming that it can be supported by Virginia-based turbine and power cable manufacturing plants. If sustained at a build-out rate of 160 MW per year (equivalent to one 320-MW project being commissioned every two years), this would support 6,200 jobs that could last for a two-decade career. To this would be added operation and maintenance jobs, which are estimated to accrue at 1.1 to 1.7 jobs per cumulative megawatt, reaching 3,500 to 5,400 jobs after the first 3,200 MW of near-term commercial potential off Virginia has been built out over the next 20 years.

Thus, within two decades, 9,700 to 11,600 career-length jobs can be created, solely associated with developing the 3,200 MW of offshore wind potential that VCERC has identified in shallow waters beyond the visual horizon off Virginia Beach. Since offshore foundations and submarine power cables are designed for a service life of 40 to 50 years, a second generation of jobs could be created for simply repowering the first 3,200 MW. Beyond this is a vast, deeper water potential that remains to be developed farther offshore.