In recent years, Virginia has become known as the “Energy Capital of the East Coast." Within Virginia’s Gateway Region, the energy industry is known for its diversity. There are well-established companies working in traditional energy, such as Dominion Power, one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy. The Gateway Region is also well positioned to grow and develop alternative energies as support and market demand increases. Companies that work in biofuels, geothermals, nuclear power, wood pellet manufacturing and other alternatives are starting to flock to the area.
Additionally, as wind power off Virginia’s coast expands, the Gateway Region will benefit from the increased demand for suppliers and manufacturers. With a prime location for quickly accessing domestic and international markets and a highly skilled workforce, especially in engineering, Virginia's Gateway Region is poised to expand a diverse collection of energy operations in the immediate future.
- Electric-redundant sites perfect for energy-related manufacturing
- High water capacity whether through local water systems or with direct access to two major rivers in the state, including falling water on the fall line
- Many expanses of available and active agricultural land for solar farms and biomass production
- Expansive “wood basket” with an abundance of soft wood (pine) for wood pellet and biomass operations
- Competitive and favorable power rates for heavy usage companies
- Barge-accessible sites to unload large parts, to shore and to ports, for longer distance shipping
- Direct, quick access to the Port of Virginia and Hampton Roads region via U.S. 460
- Availability of extensive financial incentives for companies focused on green energy including tax breaks, incentives, rebates and grants
- Any manufacturer or installer of energy efficient building materials or equipment is eligible to be exempt, or partially exempt, from local property taxes
- “Generating equipment” that is used to convert ANY alternative energy source is at least partially exempt from property taxes
Wind – Virginia, specifically the eastern shore, is the site of the nation’s first offshore wind turbine test facility, providing a facility with the ability to test and certify complete wind-turbines for off-shore and land-based applications. At the start of 2012, the Federal Government gave Virginia the official go-ahead on developing wind farms off the coast. As operations expand, the Gateway Region is in a prime location for new suppliers and manufacturers of specialized parts. The region offers several barge-accessible sites to allow components to be shipped downstream to the Port or to the offshore wind farm.
Biofuels – The U.S. Air Force and Navy have pledged to get half of the fuel needed daily from alternative sources by 2016 and 2020 respectively, opening up defense contracting opportunities for biofuel production in Virginia. The Gateway Region’s strong connection to the Department of Defense, university research capabilities and established and available agriculture land make it a solid location for biofuel business opportunities. A high-tech ethanol production plant is available for occupation, too.
Solar – Any manufacturer who sells solar photovoltaic panels manufactured in Virginia is entitled to receive an annual grant of up to 75 cents per watt of the rated capacity of panels sold.
Traditional Energy Sources – The region currently has a large trained workforce at existing facilities including a large coal-fired plant in Chesterfield County and a nuclear reactor in Surry County. In 2012, Dominion Virginia Power made a new investment for nearby Brunswick County to provide more local and affordable electricity to serve the growing manufacturing sector in the region. Dominion will also supplement Chesterfield’s existing plant before the end of the decade with a highly-efficient, clean energy facility for greater electrical production to serve the growing manufacturing sector in the region.
Training & Education
Virginia State University (VSU) offers a Manufacturing Engineering degree, the only one of its kind in the state, in addition to other applicable engineering and science degrees. Additionally, the Virginia Cooperative Extension operates the Agriculture & Natural Resources Research Center at VSU.
Virginia Commonwealth University, besides graduating thousands of students each year in degrees ranging from engineering to business, is developing a Nuclear Energy program. The university also owns and operates the Inger and Walter Rice Center for Environmental Life Sciences.
Other Virginia universities and colleges within 60 miles, including the University of Virginia, Longwood University and the College of William & Mary, have well-established physics, chemistry, engineering and other applicable programs for developing the energy workforce of the future in the Gateway Region.
The Virginia Community College System offers two-year programs in precision machining, green technology, and other applicable areas.
The Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA) offers employee training customized for individual employers. Training is completed on a custom schedule, taught by industry experts and offered at CCWA locations or company locations.
Top Local Employers
|Name||Product or Service|
|Dominion Surry Power Station||Nuclear|
|Dominion Chesterfield Power Station||Coal-Fired Power Station|
|Dominion Gravel Neck Power Station||Biomass (Fuel Oil and Natural Gas)|
|Geothermal Service & Design Experts||Geothermal|
|Delta Temp Inc.||Geothermal Heating and Cooling|
|Phoenix Geothermal Services, LLC||Geothermal Products and Services|
|Alstom Power||Turbine Engineering & Power Automation|
Selected Occupations Employment & Wages
|Occupation (SOC)||Regional Avg. Wage||National Avg. Wage||Current Employment||Extended Employment*|
|Software Developers, Systems Software (15-1133)||$97,400||$108,800||1,600||13,880|
|Computer Systems Analysts (15-1121)||$88,500||$90,200||3,072||9,606|
|Electrical & Electronic Engineering Technicians (17-3023)||$55,900||$61,900||475||5,565|
|Electrical/Electronics Repairers, Powerhouse, Substation & Relay (49-2095)||$73,700||$72,500||126||4,650|
|Electrical Engineers (17-2071)||$92,800||$97,300||714||3,284|
|Industrial Machinery Mechanics (49-9041)||$52,300||$51,500||1,444||11,362|
|Power Plant Operators (51-8013)||$50,900||$71,100||239||335|
*Includes trainable persons currently employed in occupations with relatable skills
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Chmura Analytics, Q3 2016; latest data as of Jan 1, 2016