VIRGINIA BEACH – Spend $50,000 on a wind-energy research study that the governor wants? OK.
Spend $3.3 million to implement the results of that study? No way.
Virginia Beach officials say they have no interest in buying the Chesapeake Light Tower to install equipment that would gather data for the state’s nascent offshore wind industry. The decision came after the city-funded study indicated that it would cost about $2.7 million to upgrade the aging lighthouse off the city’s coast and an additional $550,000 to install a meteorological tower.
“It’s cost-prohibitive to do it,” said Mayor Will Sessoms, who is a proponent of alternative energy industries. “It’s a shame.”
Other federal agencies may still be interested in purchasing the lighthouse, which had been used by the Coast Guard, and the city is providing them good information from the study, Sessoms said.
The city pitched in $50,000 for the study at the urging of Gov. Bob McDonnell.
State officials are trying to develop a wind energy industry. Last year, the General Assembly created the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority. The authority, which includes energy company officials, identified the Chesapeake Light Tower as a potential site for collecting weather data and determining whether the state’s coast could support a wind farm. But the authority didn’t have the money to study what improvements the lighthouse structure needed.
The cost of updating the Chesapeake Light Tower is still cheaper than building a new meteorological tower, which is estimated at up to $7 million, according to the study.
The U.S. Department of Energy and other federal agencies are considering the light tower for wind-data research needs, an energy official said.
Jeff Caldwell, a spokesman for McDonnell, said the governor’s office has not had a chance to review the study.
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