I am in my thirty-third year of service representing the 36th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. I am a retired teacher and school administrator, having been employed by the Fairfax County Public Schools for nearly 30 years. Serving as your delegate is now my full-time focus.

This website is intended to assist us in communicating with each other. I hope that you will subscribe to my electronic newsletter, Virginia e-News, that is emailed every Wednesday. Each week I share my thoughts on a pressing issue or human interest item in the form of a commentary. Read this week’s commentary below. In the newsletter you’ll also find a bulletin board of local information and a calendar of events happening in our community.

Please let me hear from you on your needs and interests. I am honored to represent you and here to serve you as effectively as I can.

Ken Plum.

Delegate Ken Plum’s Commentary

Wind Energy

July 29, 2015

Photo of Delegate Plum and others doing wind experiments at Children's Science Center Lab

Delegate Plum, Chairman Sharon Bulova and others conducting wind experiments at the new Children’s Science Center at Fair Oaks Mall.

With the federal Clean Air Act requiring higher air quality standards, many fossil-fuel power plants will be closing or converting to other fuel sources. On trips to the western part of our country and abroad, especially to Germany, I am reminded of the significant role that wind plays in being used to generate clean and sustainable electricity. In 2014 wind power added significantly more new electricity for consumers than any other source in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

According to an American Wind Energy Association announcement last year the United States has more wind energy supplying its grid than any other country, enough to power 15.5 million American homes. Wind is the fifth largest electricity source in the U.S., generating 4.4 percent of all the electricity in this country. In Denmark, wind-produced electricity provides just under 40 percent of the nation’s power. Scotland has enough wind-produced electricity to supply all its homes. Wind power is the leading source of Spain’s electricity and is the largest component of Germany’s renewable sources that now constitute a quarter of its power. China leads the world in investments in wind power.

Among the states Texas, Iowa, California, and Oklahoma, each generated enough electricity from wind to power more than a million homes. Other states with significant wind capacity include Kansas, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington. Virginia and other eastern states do not make the list because they do not have as significant a wind resource. For Virginia, only off-shore and in the mountains mostly in the southwest is there wind sufficient to site a wind turbine farm. Dominion, the largest power provider in the Commonwealth, has invested in wind-powered electricity generation in West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, and in Virginia where it holds a lease from the federal government for off-shore wind development.

The success of wind-produced electricity in Europe has been realized from a feed-in tariff system that has effectively subsidized investments. In the United States the Production Tax Credit has been the primary federal tax incentive for wind energy. As all countries look for ways to save money these incentives are in danger at a time when wind energy is beginning to demonstrate its value.

Virginia is the first state to secure a wind energy research lease to build and operate turbines in federal waters. Dominion’s plan to build a pair of 6-megawatt test turbines about 24 nautical miles off-shore from Virginia Beach seems to be in trouble as bids to build the turbines are about twice that projected. The expectation has been that eventually there would be 300 turbines in the off-shore area. Stakeholders are currently at work to identify options to salvage the project.

Wind energy needs to be a part of the renewable mix of energy sources in Virginia and the nation. Congress needs to extend the federal tax credit that keeps our development of wind energy competitive with the rest of the world. Consumers need to be open to buying wind and other renewable energies even if there is a cost premium. Our air quality depends on it.

For previous commentaries, visit the Virginia e-News archives.