Interior advances research project off Va.

Source: Phil Taylor, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Interior Department late last week announced it is moving forward on Virginia’s plan to build a 12-megawatt wind project in the Atlantic Ocean after confirming there is no competitive interest in developing the area.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said the state’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy has been cleared to submit a formal proposal to erect two 6 MW research turbines, which would trigger a National Environmental Policy Act review.

The move comes months after BOEM auctioned 113,000 acres about 25 miles off the Virginia coast to Dominion Virginia Power for $1.6 million in the nation’s second-ever competitive auction for offshore wind (E&ENews PM, Sept. 4).

The lease was executed in October.

Data gleaned from the state’s proposed 12 MW test facility will be used to inform development of Dominion’s commercial lease, BOEM said.

“The type of data that would be collected under this research lease is especially important to understanding the wind potential, weather and other conditions relevant to standing up wind power generation offshore Virginia,” BOEM Director Tommy Beaudreau said in a statement.

The test facility, which aims to lower the risk of developing offshore wind farms, would be adjacent to Dominion’s wind energy area offshore Virginia.

The project would test “twisted jacket” turbine foundations that offer the strength of traditional foundations but use substantially less steel.

BOEM said Virginia has secured Army Corps of Engineers permits and met Coast Guard requirements for early work on the site and has begun wildlife, archaeology, geophysical and geological surveys.

The partnership was one of seven selected by the Energy Department in December 2012 to be eligible to receive up to $168 million over the next six years for demonstration projects aimed at advancing the offshore wind industry (E&ENews PM, Dec. 12, 2012).

Each project was awarded $4 million to complete its planning and evaluation phases.

The offshore wind industry has yet to begin construction on any commercial-scale facilities in the United States, casting uncertainty over whether any projects will be able to secure lucrative tax incentives set to expire at the end of the month.