Google's winds of change in Virginia
The timing couldn't be more revealing.
Just as Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, pushing his goal of making Virginia "the Energy Capital of the East Coast," was set to open a hydrocarbon-heavy lineup at a two-day energy conference in Richmond, Google struck.
The Internet giant and Good Energies, a New York investment firm, announced a $5 billion project to
build a farm of install underwater transmission lines to carry power from future wind turbines up to 20 miles off the East Coast from Virginia to New Jersey. The project would take a decade to complete and eventually generate up to 6,000 megawatts of electricity, or about as much as four large nuclear power stations.
The news came just as McDonnell was to open the energy conference. He envisions wind and solar among his preferred mix, but his plan is heavily dependent on hydrocarbons such as coal and petroleum as well as nuclear.
Virginia has reserves of high-quality coal in its southwestern mountains, but the seams have been increasingly mined out, and large-scale production likely would involve mountaintop removal, a highly controversial practice that involves lopping off huge swaths of earth.
McDonnell has also pushed offshore oil drilling, but his plans hit a snag in April when BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in the largest environmental disaster in the nation's history.
Undaunted, McDonnell is still pushing offshore drilling, and tonight's keynote dinner speaker will be Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, who likes what McDonnell is trying to do. But the Virginia Sierra Club trashed McDonnell's plans, saying they rely too much on oil and coal, and pay only lip service to renewable energy sources like wind and that the states wastes too much energy as it is.
Therein lies the rub. Google, which will fund the huge offshore wind project, is a 21st century company. T. Boone Pickens seems an icon from another era, and so does McDonnell as a result of all this. A more modern governor might have had the Google
wind farm announcement taking place at his conference. Instead, attendees will get the usual Texas oilmen.
To be sure, there may be some problems with a wind project of the size envisioned. The area is a busy fishing ground, and tall windmills might interfere with that. It is also a major maneuver area for the Air Force and Navy, which opposed McDonnell's offshore oil plans because they could interfere with military exercises.
But at the end of the day, one simple fact keeps coming up: No one knows for sure if there are big oil deposits off the Virginia coast. There may be natural gas. But there's no doubt how much wind is out there.
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.
| October 13, 2010; 1:20 PM ET
Categories: Chesapeake Bay, Local blog network, Va. Politics, Virginia, development, economy, energy, environment, military, taxes, traffic, transportation, weather, wildlife
Save & Share: Previous: Could Scott Circle be the next Dupont Circle?
Next: Everyone puts on a happy face at the Rhee press conference
Posted by: WashingtonDame | October 14, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Airborne82 | October 14, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Airborne82 | October 14, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Airborne82 | October 14, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.