One of two wind turbines off the coast of Virginia Beach that comprise Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project. Credit: Sarah Vogelsong / Virginia Mercury

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PORTSMOUTH —  Siemens Gamesa announced Monday that it plans to build the United States’ first offshore wind turbine blade facility at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, notching a major win for Virginia as it strives to become a hub for the nation’s fledgling offshore wind energy industry

The announcement was made Monday at the terminal by U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. 

The Spanish-German wind engineering company said it plans to invest more than $200 million in the Portsmouth Marine Terminal facility, which will produce blades for offshore wind projects throughout North America, per Northam’s office.

The facility is expected to create over 300 jobs. 

Virginia’s largest electric utility, Dominion Energy, previously selected Siemens Gamesa as the turbine supplier for its 2.6 gigawatt Virginia Coastal Offshore Wind project being developed 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. A 12 megawatt pilot constructed by Dominion became the nation’s first offshore wind installation in federal waters and began delivering energy to customers in January 2021. 

Offshore wind is increasingly becoming a critical component of both electric power producers’ plans to transition away from fossil fuels and state and federal aspirations to develop renewable energy that can replace coal and natural gas while driving economic growth.

Earlier this month, President Joseph Biden’s administration laid out an ambitious plan to develop offshore wind along much of the East Coast, West Coast and Gulf of Mexico. In March, the administration set a target of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. 

Virginia has also set an aggressive goal under the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act of developing 5.2 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2034. Dominion’s CVOW project, which would produce half of that power, is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management. 

But even as states race to develop wind projects, turbine components continue to be produced overseas, with major manufacturers including Siemens Gamesa telling Reuters earlier this year that they need to see a reliable pipeline of projects moving forward in the U.S. before putting down roots stateside. 

Shipping turbine components across the Atlantic for U.S. projects, however, comes with special challenges. 

Under the federal Jones Act, any vessel carrying goods between two points in the U.S. must be built and registered in the United States. Despite that restriction, no such vessels with the capacity to transport turbine components currently exist in the U.S. Dominion is building the first Jones Act-compliant offshore wind installation ship in Texas, which has been christened Charybdis after a sea monster in “The Odyssey” and is expected to be completed by late 2023.

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