Where Is Wind Energy Found In Virginia?

Where is wind energy found in Virginia?

Wind energy has seen steady growth in recent years in Virginia, especially in the western part of the state. While Virginia currently ranks 27th in wind energy production capacity, there are several projects in the works that are expected to greatly increase wind energy production in the state.

The most favorable areas for wind in Virginia are located in the higher elevations of the Allegheny Mountains and along the coastline. Currently, most of Virginia’s wind projects are located in the western part of the state, especially Highland County. Virginia’s first utility-scale wind farm, the 30 MW Highland New Wind project, began operating in 2006 in Highland County. Since then, several other smaller wind farms have popped up in western counties.

More recently, there has been a push for offshore wind energy off the coast of Virginia. In 2020, Dominion Energy received approval to build the country’s largest offshore wind project 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. When completed in 2026, the project will provide 2,600 megawatts of wind energy for customers in Virginia

Western Virginia

The mountains and ridges of western Virginia have the strongest wind energy potential in the state. This region borders West Virginia and contains the Appalachian Mountains, which provide excellent conditions for wind power generation. According to research from James Madison University, parts of western Virginia have sufficient wind speeds to support economically viable wind projects.[1]

High elevation areas like ridgelines and mountaintops experience faster wind speeds than lower elevations. Western Virginia’s complex terrain leads to areas of consistently high winds. For example, the Alleghany Highlands and Cumberland Plateau regions have estimated average wind speeds of over 15 mph at 164 feet above ground. At taller hub heights used by modern turbines, wind speeds can exceed 20 mph.[2] These wind speeds make western Virginia suitable for utility-scale wind farms.

So far, there are no major wind energy developments in western Virginia. However, the region’s wind power potential has attracted interest from developers and utilities. With the right policies and investments, the mountains and valleys of western Virginia could become a hub for wind energy production.

[1] “Could Southwest Virginia be a center for wind turbine manufacturing?” Cardinal News, 21 December 2021. https://cardinalnews.org/2021/12/21/could-southwest-virginia-be-a-center-for-wind-turbine-manufacturing/

[2] “Virginia Virginia Profile.” U.S. Energy Information Administration. https://www.eia.gov/state/analysis.php?sid=VA

Offshore Wind

Virginia has ideal conditions for developing offshore wind farms due to strong, consistent wind resources off the Atlantic coast and shallow waters in areas like Hampton Roads that allow easier construction of foundations [1]. The state is home to the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project, which will be the largest offshore wind development in the US when completed. CVOW is being developed by Dominion Energy and will consist of over 200 wind turbines capable of generating up to 2,600 megawatts of electricity, enough to power up to 660,000 homes [2].

The first phase of CVOW, known as the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Pilot Project, became operational in 2020 with two 6-megawatt wind turbines located 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. This pilot project alone generates enough electricity to power 3,000 homes [3]. The full commercial buildout of CVOW is planned to commence in 2024.

With its extensive offshore wind resources, Virginia has the potential to generate enough offshore wind energy to meet over half of the state’s electricity needs. The development of offshore wind farms in the coming years will play a key role in transitioning Virginia to renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Onshore Projects

Virginia currently has no utility-scale onshore wind projects in operation, although there are several planned projects in development. The state has moderate onshore wind potential, with the best wind resources located in the higher elevation areas along the Appalachian Mountains in western Virginia.

In 2020, Dominion Energy announced plans for the first onshore wind project in the state, located in Botetourt County. This project will have up to 180 MW capacity and is expected to begin operations in 2023. Dominion has secured a power purchase agreement with electric vehicle manufacturer Mercedes-Benz for the project’s output (https://www.dominionenergy.com/company/making-energy/renewable-generation/wind/onshore-wind).

Another major planned onshore wind project is Apex Clean Energy’s Rocky Forge Wind in Botetourt County, which has a potential capacity of up to 250 MW. This project received permit approval in 2021 and construction could begin as early as 2023 (https://www.eia.gov/state/analysis.php?sid=VA).

There are also a number of smaller scale onshore wind projects in early development across western Virginia. However, onshore wind still faces some challenges in Virginia due to permitting issues, grid constraints, and public opposition in some areas.

Wind Energy Policy

The state of Virginia has implemented several policies, regulations, and incentives to support the growth of wind energy. In 2018, the Virginia Energy Plan set a goal for Virginia to develop 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2028 (Virginia Department of Energy). The plan designated offshore wind as a key industry for economic development in the state.

In 2020, Virginia passed the Clean Economy Act which established a mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) for electricity generation. This requires Dominion Energy, the state’s largest utility, to generate 5,200 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2034 (Virginia Mercury). The Act also enabled competitive procurement of offshore wind energy by third parties starting in 2025.

Virginia offers tax incentives for renewable energy generation. Wind energy facilities are exempt from state and local property tax and sales tax. The state also provides grants, loans, and other financial incentives for renewable energy projects through programs like the VirginiaSAVES Green Community Program (WINDExchange).

Economic Benefits

Wind energy projects in Virginia provide significant economic benefits through job creation and local revenue. According to the Virginia Department of Energy, the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) pilot project is estimated to create over 900 direct and indirect jobs during construction and over 1,100 jobs during operations (Virginia Department of Energy). These include high-paying jobs in construction, operations, maintenance, manufacturing, and more. For example, Dominion Energy has pledged to hire over 600 workers just for turbine and supply chain operations as part of CVOW (Dominion Energy).

Localities also benefit from new revenue streams through permit fees, property taxes, and other taxes associated with wind projects. The American Wind Energy Association estimates Virginia’s annual state and local tax payments from wind projects at $2 million as of 2020, with significant growth expected (WINDExchange). Ports that support offshore wind see increased economic activity as well.

In addition to direct jobs and tax revenue, wind projects create economic impacts through supply chain businesses, community donations, and energy cost savings that stay local. For example, Ørsted and Dominion Energy have each pledged over $10 million in community impact funds that support STEM education, environmental justice, tourism, and small business growth in Hampton Roads (Dominion Energy). Overall, wind energy brings substantial economic benefits to local communities across Virginia.

Environmental Benefits

Wind power provides major environmental benefits compared to conventional energy sources like fossil fuels. By generating electricity without burning fuels, wind turbines produce power without emitting greenhouse gases or other air pollution. According to the Energy Information Administration, wind energy results in 99% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the average fossil fuel plant[1]. Wind farms also don’t produce any toxic waste unlike coal and nuclear power plants. The Union of Concerned Scientists found wind energy has among the lowest global warming emissions of any electricity source[2]. This makes wind a key clean energy source that can help mitigate climate change and improve public health through reduced air pollution.

The development and operation of wind farms has relatively minimal impact on the environment compared to other energy industries. While wind turbines can affect local wildlife, these effects can be reduced through proper siting and mitigation strategies. Overall, wind energy provides major reductions in pollution and carbon emissions compared to fossil fuels, making it an attractive renewable energy source.

[1] https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/wind/wind-energy-and-the-environment.php

[2] https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/environmental-impacts-wind-power


While wind power offers many benefits, expanding its use in Virginia faces some key challenges. Many of these revolve around local community concerns and regulatory obstacles that have slowed onshore wind development in the state.

One major challenge is from residents who express worries about views being obstructed or noise from wind turbines. Proposed onshore projects often generate Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) opposition from nearby homeowners. Additionally, there are concerns about wind turbines potentially harming wildlife, especially birds and bats. Minimizing ecological impacts is an important consideration.

Regulatory uncertainty has also hindered growth so far. Virginia currently lacks a mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard that would require utilities to use renewable energy sources. Policy changes may be needed to encourage further wind power investment. There are also uncertainties around permitting and grid connection processes that can deter development.

Lastly, the mountainous terrain of western Virginia poses challenges for transporting and constructing large wind turbines. The costs and logistics of wind development in the state remain higher than in flatter regions like the Great Plains. However, technology improvements and strategic siting could help overcome geographic constraints.

Future Outlook

The future of wind energy in Virginia looks very promising. The state has set goals to produce 5,200 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2034 through the Virginia Clean Economy Act passed in 2020. This includes the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind commercial project being developed by Dominion Energy, which will provide 2,600 megawatts of offshore wind capacity when completed in 2026.

According to the Virginia Department of Energy, there are currently over 10 offshore wind projects in the pipeline for development off Virginia’s coast, representing over 25 gigawatts of potential offshore wind capacity. This includes potential lease areas opened up by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) for offshore wind development on the Outer Continental Shelf off Virginia’s coast.

Beyond offshore wind, Virginia also has plans to expand land-based wind energy. The state currently has only two utility-scale onshore wind projects but has significant wind energy potential in the mountainous western regions. With advancement in turbine technology and policies supporting renewable energy growth, Virginia is poised to see major expansion of its land-based wind capacity moving forward.

Overall, Virginia is projected to continue investing heavily in wind power, both offshore and onshore, over the next decade. This will help the state meet renewable energy targets, deliver economic benefits, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the American Clean Power Association, Virginia could feasibly develop over 30,000 megawatts of land-based and offshore wind capacity by 2030.


In summary, wind energy is found in both western Virginia onshore and in offshore projects on the Atlantic coast. Major wind projects in western Virginia include the Rocky Forge Wind and Mountain Valley Pipeline wind farms. Off the coast, Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project is under development. Wind energy brings economic benefits like job creation and tax revenue to local communities in Virginia. It also provides environmental benefits through zero emissions renewable electricity generation. While wind development faces some challenges around siting, permitting, and transmission infrastructure, wind energy will likely play an important role in diversifying Virginia’s energy mix and meeting renewable energy targets in the future.

Wind power offers a clean, renewable source of energy that can help advance Virginia’s goals around reducing carbon emissions and expanding renewable energy generation. With ample onshore and offshore wind resources, Virginia has significant potential to harness wind energy. Continued policy support and investment will allow Virginia to tap into its abundant wind resources to meet rising energy demands in a sustainable manner.

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