Dominion Virginia Power is interested in leasing 113,000 acres off the Virginia coast to develop wind energy.
The site, about 24 miles off the coast, could generate 1,500 to 2,000 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind turbines – or enough energy to power 500,000 homes.
The state’s largest electric utility filed paperwork Monday with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management formally expressing its interest in offshore wind generation in what could be a powerful message for a slowly emerging domestic source of clean energy.
“Offshore wind generation holds great promise in the long term as a scalable source of emissions-free renewable electricity,” Mary C. Doswell, the company’s executive vice president for alternative energy solutions, said in a statement.
Companies had until Monday to submit their interest in commercial leasing for wind power off the Virginia coast.
The federal agency has not announced a timetable or date when it will notify the applicants, a Dominion Virginia Power spokesman said.
However, the agency has said that interest from more than one party could lead to a competitive bidding process for the leasing.
Apex Offshore Wind, based in Charlottesville, also was to file a submission on Monday for leasing, company President Tim Ryan said.
A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management didn’t return phone calls seeking information on other possible filings. The Dominion Virginia Power spokesman did not know whether any other company had submitted a bid.
If Dominion Virginia Power is awarded the leasing, it would need to assess the site, including installing a meteorological tower to study wind strength and patterns, the company said. It also would have to obtain approval from state regulators.
A report released last week found that Dominion Virginia Power should consider building one offshore substation for each 500 to 700 megawatts of wind-generated electricity and add up to three more substations as additional wind turbines are built.
The Dominion Virginia Power-commissioned report recommended that the power company develop offshore wind generation in stages, using 230,000-volt submarine power lines to get the electricity to shore for customers.
The cost for each station is about $652 million.
The company previously had said it was interested in building up to 400 wind turbines in Atlantic waters, but it cautioned that keeping costs down will be the challenge.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects the cost of offshore wind generation in 2016 at about 24 cents per kilowatt-hour generated. Dominion Virginia Power said that’s a significantly higher premium than what its residential customers pay for electricity.
The utility, with about 2.3 million customers in Virginia, has a $500,000 Department of Energy grant to study ways to bring down the costs of offshore wind development, including turbine designs and other new technologies.
Clean-energy advocates have promoted Virginia’s offshore power because of optimal winds and shallow waters in the areas the government designated for development. They have said the state’s shipbuilding and port industries are platforms for the design, manufacture and shipping of turbines.
Staff writer Louis Llovio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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