PORTSMOUTH, Va (WAVY) — The time is now – that’s what planners in Hampton Roads are saying about creating a new industry in our region. They want to make Hampton Roads a manufacturing hub for wind turbines that generate electric power.

The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission says the local labor force, location on the East Coast and port would attract companies who want to get a foothold in an emerging industry.

“There’s a lot of competition up and down the East Coast from states that are probably ahead of us right now,” said Matt Smith, HRPDC Senior Planner.

Dominion Energy announced a partnership last August with turbine maker Orsted of Denmark, to create a pilot project of two turbines 27 miles off the Virginia coast. That demonstration project could lead to as many as 200 turbines that would be generating power by 2028.

In addition, wind power generation elsewhere, both offshore and land-based, continues to grow. Smith sees that as a perfect opportunity to create a new industry in Hampton Roads.

“We have by far the largest maritime workforce in America. We’re used to building ships and repairing ships. A lot of that workforce skill translates over to the offshore wind industry.”

HRPDC is teaming up with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission. They will try to get lawmakers to approve $250,000 to establish a wind power office within the Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy. Planners say it would create an image and send a signal. 

“(It would show) We’re ready to play in this game. It’s about investing in infrastructure and investing in our workforce. So if a European company wanted to locate here and manufacture something, they know that they have the support of the state,” Smith said.

Dominion Energy expects to have its two pilot turbines generating power by late next year.