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Posted at 10:50 AM ET, 06/11/2010

McDonnell wins with wind

By Peter Galuszka

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell finally is doing the right thing with energy policy by joining a coalition of 10 coastal states that will push for wind turbines off the East Coast.

It may sound like a no-brainer, but wind is a much healthier and more popular way to generate needed power as opposed to offshore oil rigs that McDonnell had been pushing to the consternation of several neighboring states.

After vowing to make Virginia "the energy capital of the East Coast," McDonnell had to deal with the flotsam after President Obama first agreed to an oil lease sale off Virginia and then scuttled it following the Gulf of Mexico spill.

Instead of turning the Old Dominion into a mini-Louisiana, Virginia could be the recipient of a federally funding regional office to help with the technology of offshore wind turbines, which, at 300 feet tall, could spin out of sight about 12 miles off the coast.

Oher benefits, according to a report by the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium, include making turbines that could draw in $403 million in investment, spur the creation of up to 11,600 jobs within two decades and generate up to 3,200 megawatts of power.

The report claims that the wind turbines could be located in areas that would not affect commercial fishing, shipping or the Navy or Air Force practice ranges that were big concerns with the offshore oil rig plan.

But this all might be too good to be true, in a sense. Experts say that wind alone won't generate all the power needed as the region and its economy grow and older generating plants wear out. Needed will be a mix of nuclear, coal and other forms of energy.

Dominion Virginia Power is exploring building a third unit at its North Anna nuclear power plant, but it needs huge federal loan guarantees to do so. Coal, of course, is highly problematic since generating plants spew out great amounts of carbon dioxide that contribute to global warming. As the Massey Energy disaster shows at its Upper Big Branch mine in April, coal mining is still highly dangerous, and strip mining using mountaintop removal causes ecological devastation.

But at least McDonnell is putting some of his energy into wind.

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon's Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Peter Galuszka  | June 11, 2010; 10:50 AM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Local blog network, economy, energy, environment, military, public health, recreation, traffic, transportation, weather, wildlife  
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