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Governor Shares his Energy Plans for Virginia at Engineering Unplugged Conference

Gov. Bob McDonnell outlined his strategy for making the commonwealth the "energy capital of the East Coast" during an address at the Energy Unplugged conference at Old Dominion University on Tuesday, April 13.

The governor's speech was the headline attraction of the daylong conference, presented by ODU's Virginia Applied Technology and Professional Development Center.

The premier green event of its kind in Hampton Roads, the conference attracted 250 attendees from business, government and academia, showcasing expertise about green buildings, energy conservation, alternative energy and greenhouse gases.

In his address, McDonnell spoke at length about his energy plans for Virginia, noting that he had signed nine alternative energy bills into law at ODU earlier this month.

About the campaign to make Virginia the "energy capital of the East Coast," McDonnell said: "It's nice to have some lofty goals, but it's not without some basis in fact."

The governor said Virginia already has among the largest deposits of coal and natural gas east of the Mississippi River, as well as more nuclear energy capacity than any state touching the Atlantic. And that doesn't even mention the state's potential for wind generation and alternative energy sources, or the potential oil and gas deposits off the Virginia coast.

McDonnell said that while Virginia has abundant natural resources, it gets 97 percent of its energy from so-called traditional sources, such as coal and natural gas, and only 3 percent from alternative energy sources. "We'd like to increase that number," McDonnell said.

With Virginia being the first state to receive approval to begin exploring and drilling for offshore oil and natural gas, McDonnell has pledged to put 20 percent of future royalty revenue directly into alternative energy development and technology.

"We've got to be able to collectively find new ways to reduce foreign sources of oil and other sources of energy," McDonnell said. "There's a lot of things happening that collectively position us well to grow green energy.

"We know this will create tremendous job opportunities for Virginians as well."

Before his address, McDonnell met with ODU men's basketball coach Blaine Taylor and four of his upperclassmen players - Gerald Lee, Marsharee Neely, Frank Hassell and Keyon Carter.

In leading off his address, McDonnell joked that he "tried to change" his speaking engagement at ODU after the Monarchs defeated his alma mater, Notre Dame, in the NCAA tournament.

But McDonnell went on to say he spent many enjoyable nights cheering for ODU at the Constant Center, because one of his daughters, who graduated four years ago, was a cheerleader for the university.

Earlier in the day, conference keynote speaker Ed Nixon - brother of the late Richard Nixon - spoke about his 30 years of investment and promotion of alternative energy, starting with wind and moving into solar and "next generation" energy technologies.

"Forty years ago today, Apollo 13 blew its oxygen tank in space, and we had the experience of a great rescue by our NASA personnel," Nixon said. "The rescue demonstrated the power of another potential source of energy," he said, speaking about the use of space-based solar energy.

Nixon said he gets very excited these days when he meets young people who are researching potential future renewable energy sources. "I encourage young people whenever I meet them and they're doing this," Nixon said. "They're investigating topics that could lead to the next great energy breakthrough."

This is the second year ODU has hosted Engineering Unplugged. The event attracted a cross-section of engineering firms, government agencies and interested citizens from Hampton Roads.

Seminars included sessions on light and high-speed rail, achieving zero landfill status and deploying best-practice approaches for plant energy.

This article was posted on: April 14, 2010

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