Energy technology testbed will be developed in SW Virginia

Energy Delta Lab
Energy Delta Lab(Energy Delta Lab/Governor Youngkin's Office)
Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 5:00 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ/Governor’s Office Release) - Governor Glenn Youngkin has announced the launch of what he calls a first-of-its-kind energy technology testbed in Southwest Virginia that will “provide land as laboratories and scientific assistance to promote energy innovation.”

The Energy DELTA Lab’s initial site will be in Wise County near the Town of Pound, and current plans call for the potential development of additional testbed sites around the region, according to the governor.

The Energy DELTA (Discovery, Education, Learning & Technology Accelerator) Lab initiative is a collaborative effort by the Virginia Department of Energy, the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority and its business development partner InvestSWVA.

“Since announcing the Virginia 2022 Energy Plan, I am pleased to announce this Energy DELTA Lab project which delivers on our vision to define Virginia as a force in energy innovation,” said Governor Youngkin. “No other project like it exists in the United States. With this energy testbed, we see a commitment to transformation, encouragement for startup enterprises and support for the development of promising careers in exciting new fields.”

“As the United States moves toward new forms of energy production and use, Virginia’s southwest region has the opportunity to redefine itself as a leader in energy innovation,” said Caren Merrick, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade. “The Energy DELTA Lab testbed project highlights our determination to push Virginia’s energy leadership position to new heights.”

“This project is one more embodiment of our vision for reimagining Southwest Virginia’s economic competitiveness,” said Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-1), Majority Leader of the Virginia House of Delegates and InvestSWVA co-chair. “Energy is a business we know. On behalf of the region’s entire legislative delegation, I can say we believe that this research effort linked with economic development will create new opportunities for the entire region.”

“The Energy DELTA Lab is a concept becoming reality in the most logical place for it to happen,” said Mike Quillen, Chair of the Energy DELTA Lab and the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority. “Our work in being part of the global energy story is entering another chapter, encouraging a fresh look at energy production and what it means – and requires – to enjoy a successful career in the industry.”

“The Energy DELTA Lab is an investment Southwest Virginia’s future,” said Chris Beam, Appalachian Power president and chief operating officer. “It is an opportunity for Appalachian Power to actively engage in next generation research and development in energy on the ground and in a place that makes sense for our customers.”

“Dominion Energy Virginia is pleased to join a strong group of partners in the Energy DELTA Lab endeavor,”said Ed Baine, President of Dominion Energy Virginia. “This is a significant development for Southwest Virginia, and it will help to ensure the ongoing contribution of the Commonwealth of Virginia to the global conversation about energy.”

“The Energy DELTA Lab concept aligns with local, regional, state, federal and international goals,” said U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA). “Many of us have worked hard over many years to spark new economic opportunities in Southwest Virginia. This initiative is a promising step forward because it leverages Southwest Virginia’s diverse and unique terrain to position the region as a leader in clean energy research and development.”

“The Energy DELTA Lab is a groundbreaking initiative that draws on Southwest Virginia’s resources and technical knowledge,” said U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith (R-9). “It will keep our region at the forefront of exciting developments in the energy sector that will one day power the world.”

“The Energy DELTA Lab’s focus on leveraging legacy energy assets to develop new and innovative energy technologies can only happen in Southwest Virginia,”said Will Payne, Managing Partner of Coalfield Strategies, the firm leading business development for the Energy DELTA Lab and InvestSWVA. “This is just the beginning of the work we must do together to deliver on our vision to build a new, diversified economy in the region. And, with the Energy DELTA Lab as our vehicle, we can define Virginia as a hub of energy innovation in America.”

Read on for more about the project from Governor Youngkin’s Office:

As a country, we are undergoing a transformative period that is challenging how we create, transport, store and use energy. New energy technologies are emerging every day requiring vetting to ensure that they not only meet commercialization potential but also provide the low-cost, clean energy demanded by the marketplace. The Energy DELTA Lab is the culmination of four years of work to establish a vehicle in Southwest Virginia that can lead this research geared toward commercialization and deployment. The initial testbed site in Wise County will be located on property owned by the Cumberland Forest Limited Partnership and managed by The Nature Conservancy. Lead private industry partners include Appalachian Power and Dominion Energy Virginia.

The Energy DELTA Lab initiative was developed through a previously announced $975,000 grant from the federal Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) Program, which works to support economic and community development goals in regions impacted by the downturn of coal production. The funding, subject to final approval by the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, will be used to acquire access to previously-mined land and for infrastructure improvements necessary to deploy clean energy projects.

The initiative builds upon Southwest Virginia’s unique legacy. With more than 100,000 acres of previously mined property, more than 9,000 gas wells, numerous mine cavities, and boundless water supplies, the region’s diverse terrain, mineral and underground resources provide the ideal setting for the commercialization and deployment of new, burgeoning energy technologies, including hydrogen, mine-based geothermal, small modular nuclear reactors, innovative solar generation and advanced energy storage, including pumped-storage hydro.

At its core, the Energy DELTA Lab is an economic development strategy to drive growth and diversify Southwest Virginia’s economy. The work that goes into these projects and the resulting energy assets will bring new opportunities to a region that has been significantly impacted by the downturn of fossil fuel production. This activity will ultimately create new career pathways for the region’s workforce.

The innovative project has strong support from Southwest Virginia’s delegation in Congress.

The Energy DELTA Lab’s initial concept was designed by Dr. Michael Karmis, former director of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research. Further study of the concept under the codename Project Innovation, including operations and site planning, was led by InvestSWVA and the LENOWISCO Planning District Commission via grants provided by the GO Virginia Region One Council and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.