Groups Say Va. Energy Projects Generate Jobs
Some companies working with Google to create Mid-Atlantic offshore wind grid.
RICHMOND (CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE)– Representatives of renewable energy businesses are urging legislators to support alternative energy efforts in Virginia as a means of job creation.
Environmentalists and alternative energy companies held the first Renewable Energy Business Lobby Day last week to call attention to the issue.
“Everybody needs to understand that this renewable energy stuff creates jobs,” Kent Baake, founder of Continuum Energy Solutions, said at a press conference hosted by the Sierra Club of Virginia.
Representatives of more than 40 renewable energy firms – including wind, solar and bio-mass companies – attended the lobbying event.
Baake said unemployment is the biggest issue in Virginia – and part of the solution is long-term investment in renewable energy.
“My own company has grown 500 percent in the last fiscal year,” said Baake, whose Alexandria-based firm provides solar panels and other solar energy products. “There are success stories that are out there, and we need to work to educate our legislators.”
Robert Matthias, a member of the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority, agreed. That state agency is encouraging windmill energy projects off Virginia’s coast.
Jobs in the wind industry are growing rapidly, said Matthias, assistant to the city manager in Virginia Beach.
“There’s a rule of thumb for every windmill you create,” Matthias said. “Each windmill creates four jobs in construction and one permanently to maintain it. So 250 windmill farms would create over a thousand jobs in construction and 250 permanent jobs in perpetuity.”
Critics say renewable energy facilities are not cost-efficient, according to Al Weed of the Virginia Bio-mass Council. He said such claims are wrong.
“If we meet our demand in Virginia with an amount of renewable energy that reflects proportionally to what we have available now, then in 2025 it would cost one cent more per kilowatt hour,” Weed said.
“If we met that same 7,500 megawatts capacity with clean coal and nuclear energy, the customer will be paying 1.6 cents more per kilowatt. So it’s not only a job producer, but it’s going to be good for the consumer.”
Virginia is well suited to take advantage of wind energy, experts said. The state “possesses ports that have access to the ocean without the encumbrances of bridges,” said Robert Mitchell, chief executive officer of the Trans-Elect transmission company and acting CEO of a related firm, Atlantic Wind Connection.
Both companies are working with Google to develop a transmission system that would connect all the wind farms in the mid-Atlantic states with a 250-mile-long underwater cable. The system would use offshore wind to generate 6,600 megawatts of electricity. Supporters hope the system will include Virginia.
They say the facility would produce more than $34 billion in benefits and reduce carbon emissions.
“If you build 6,000 megawatts of wind, you’re creating the opportunity to replace 16 million tons of carbon each year,” Mitchell said. “That’s the equivalent of taking 3 million cars off the road, and it also produces enough power to generate for 1.9 million homes.”