“It is time that our legislative leaders took stock of the renewable energy industry in Virginia,” said Kent Baake, CEO and founder of Continuum Energy Solutions. “That is why this very first Renewable Energy Business Lobby Day is so important.”
More than forty renewable energy businesses came to Richmond today to represent the wind, solar and bio mass industries. They paid visits to over fifty legislators informing them about the industry, and what problems and opportunities they see for expanding this industry in Virginia.
“I am a small businessman and my firm grew by 500% this past year,” said Baake. “Renewable energy can be a major driver for the Virginia economy if the General Assembly just removed some of the barriers to expanding the industry in Virginia.”
One positive step the General Assembly took last year was the establishment of the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority. Virginia has the potential for 3,000 Megawatts of offshore wind power just 12 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, and the authority was created to support the development of that resource.
“Offshore wind has tremendous potential for Hampton Roads and the Commonwealth as a source of clean renewable energy and as an economic engine that can create thousands of new jobs,” said Robert Matthias, member of the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority and Assistant to the City Manager of Virginia Beach.
The potential of offshore wind is attracting big investors like Google which recently announced its support for the Atlantic Wind Connection, a firm that proposes to build a backbone transmission line off the coast from Virginia to New Jersey to transport energy more efficiently from wind farms that will be built up and down the east coast.
“We are excited by the opportunities that offshore wind has to offer,” said Robert Mitchell Acting CEO of Atlantic Wind Connection. “This is a well established industry in Europe projected to employ 240,000 workers and we have a similar opportunity in our country. But we need the help of state assemblies and Congress to reform laws that represent obstacles our developing this industry in the U.S.
“Another important source of renewable energy that could benefit rural Virginia is bio-mass,” said Al Weed, on behalf of the Virginia Bio-mass Council. “Our farmers and our rural communities can become centers for homegrown energy that can bring jobs to those areas of our state with some of the highest unemployment.”
“We feel it is critically important that the renewable energy story be told to legislators who otherwise hear from the utilities every day,” said Glen Besa, Director of the Sierra Club Virginia which organized the lobby day. “If Virginia is going to benefit from the same economic opportunities that are happening in neighboring states like Maryland and North Carolina, our state leaders need to appreciate that coal, gas and nuclear are no longer the only ways to generate electricity.”