Research lab off Va. coast gets approval

Source: By Steve Szkotak, AP/Fuel Fix • Posted: Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The federal government approved the construction of a research facility off Virginia’s coast to test wind turbines in harsh open-sea environments.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved a research lease with the state last year, and now it has authorized the construction of two 6-megawatt turbines about 30 miles off Virginia Beach.

The wind turbines are expected to generate energy for 3,000 homes’ electricity needs, according to BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper.

“Data collected under this research lease will help us better understand the wind potential, weather and other conditions off of Virginia’s coast,” Hopper said.

The United States trails behind its European counterparts when it comes to offshore wind energy. Development of offshore wind off Massachusetts has long been in the planning stages, but the continental United States has no offshore wind farms.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said the authorization of the offshore research facility is an “important step in our mission to be the first state to install offshore wind turbines in federal waters.”

The project has not been without setbacks, however. Last year, energy company Dominion Resources Inc. announced that the bids for constructing the turbines were between $374 million and $400 million — about double the expected amount.

Dominion said it’s going over ways to bring the bids down, which has resulted in a later project start date of 2018 instead of 2017.