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ODU Hosts Roundtable with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner to Discuss Offshore Wind Energy Plans

Old Dominion University convened a roundtable of leaders from across Hampton Roads and Virginia on Aug. 23 to update U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and Gov. Ralph Northam's chief of staff, Clark Mercer, on the region's offshore wind plans, projects and research proposals.

In November 2018, ODU convened a 120-member offshore wind task force consisting of offshore wind energy leaders and experts from all levels of government, as well as the public and the private sector.

"Typical of Old Dominion University, we will not do this alone," President John R. Broderick said. "We make the most progress when we partner with others with the same vision."

Warner received updates from the Port of Virginia, Virginia Maritime Association, Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, Tidewater Community College, the Department of Mines Minerals and Energy, Dominion Power and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

Following the updates, the group asked Warner to help advance a study assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that identifies innovative ports for offshore wind, and for his support for a funding opportunity from the Department of Defense, Office of Economic Adjustment where ODU would partner with James Madison University to study the impacts of renewable energy on military readiness.

Paul Olsen, executive director in Office of Research and a former commander of the Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is coordinating ODU's efforts. He has a track record of successfully planning and constructing infrastructure mega-projects.

"It can be difficult to focus such a large task on the strategic directions needed for offshore wind development, but what helps is we all agree offshore wind is good for Virginia," Olsen said in his opening remarks to Warner, who requested the meeting.

Olsen went on to explain to that the first critical step was to establish the task force's governance by creating an 11-member executive committee (EXCOM) that keeps efforts aligned and moving forward.

The EXCOM emphasized four areas: project management, workforce development, supply-chain development, and research and innovation. Each of these areas is overseen by a committee within the Offshore Wind Task Force.

"Each member of the task force serves on one or more committees, and most of our committee chairs also sit on our EXCOM. This keeps us laser-focused on what is needed to advance offshore wind efforts for our Commonwealth," said John Warren, director of Mines Minerals and Energy, whose department partnered with ODU during an official signing ceremony on May 28.

Offshore wind was one of a number of initiatives highlighted by President Broderick at his State of the University address on Aug. 21.

"This type of cooperation is not new to the region," said Morris Foster, vice president for the Office of Research. "We have seen it before with great results in the areas for port modernization, aerospace, and resilience to name a few and I am looking forward to similar results for offshore wind energy."

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