Eight companies are vying for the right to develop wind farms off the Virginia coast.
Two of the candidates are from Virginia: Dominion Resources, the state’s largest electric utility, based in Richmond; and Apex Virginia Offshore Wind LLC, based in Charlottesville.
There are two with roots in Spain and a couple with experience in building and managing wind farms on land in Western states and elsewhere in the United States.
There are no operating wind turbines in U.S. waters today. But the Obama administration is trying to “fast track” applications and permits to catch up to European countries, which lead the world in offshore wind energy. Still, it could be years before turbines are churning out clean electricity off Virginia.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is overseeing offshore wind development, posted the names of companies interested in Virginia on its website after receiving formal paperwork before a deadline last week.
The eight candidates:
Arcadia Offshore Virginia LLC, a branch of Arcadia Windpower, based in New Jersey; Cirrus Wind Energy Inc., based in Nevada; enXco Development Corp., based in California; Fishermen’s Energy LLC, based in New Jersey; Iberdrola Renewables Inc., an American subsidiary of a Spanish company with offices on the West and East coasts; Orisol Energy US Inc., another Spanish offshoot with American offices in Michigan; Apex Virginia; and Dominion Resources.
The companies will be vetted by government regulators to determine whether they meet legal, technical and financial requirements. If they are deemed viable, the companies probably will get to compete in an auction for offshore leases of nearly 113,000 acres in the Atlantic Ocean, all located at least 23 nautical miles from the Virginia coast.
The blind auction, likely to be conducted via computer, will probably occur in late 2012 or early 2013, according to industry experts.
Virginia officials in Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration have told federal regulators they would like to see a single company get the rights to develop all offshore leases, reasoning that the process would be smoother and economic benefits drawn out instead of a boom-then-bust crush to put up turbines as fast as possible.
Three of the bidders, including Dominion Resources, asked that they get the rights to all of Virginia’s leases. Most of the other competitors want almost all of the designated lease space off the coast, which is divided into 3-mile-by-3-mile blocks.
Industry observers say that prospective players in Virginia also are vying for leases in other Atlantic states, except Dominion, which is eyeing its home state only.
One of those bidding elsewhere is Fishermen’s Energy, started five years ago by investors in the commercial fishing business. Those fishing interests initially were opposed to wind turbines, fearing conflicts and damage to their ocean fishing grounds. But “they came to realize they could either spend a lot of money fighting this new industry or join in, so they joined in,” said company spokeswoman Rhonda Jackson.
Jackson said her company probably would spread out its turbines more than other bidders to give fishermen more room. She also noted the company would look to recruit fellow watermen and seafood interests to help with the Virginia effort.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding