Virginia could clear another federal hurdle in July in its quest for an offshore lease for a wind power research project, according to state energy officials.
The federally controlled lease site about 28 miles offshore from Virginia Beach would be used for two advanced-technology demonstration wind turbines.
In a parallel process, Dominion Virginia Power has been selected for a $4 million federal grant to do initial engineering, design and permitting for the 12-megawatt wind-power test facility.
But the state’s efforts to test the feasibility of offshore wind development are caught between the requirements of two federal departments – Interior and Energy – as Dominion Virginia Power faces a tight timeline to apply for an additional $47 million for the project, officials said Thursday at a meeting of the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority.
“We need the Department of the Interior to be aggressive and move the research lease forward,” said Mary Doswell, Dominion Resources Inc.’s vice president for alternative energy solutions. “How can you do a lot of engineering work if you’re uncertain where your wind turbines are going to be?”
Virginia is waiting for Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to issue what’s termed a request for competitive interest for the state’s proposed lease site, expected in June. With no other states or federal agencies interested in the offshore location, the way should be cleared in a month after that for the state to move forward on the lease.
With a lease in hand for the site in the Atlantic Ocean, Dominion Virginia Power will be able to gather information needed for its application to the federal Department of Energy, due by February, for the wind turbine demonstration project.
The electric utility has backup sites in state waters that would not need federal approval, Doswell said, but the alternate locations also would be distant from the target federal offshore wind lease area.
“We’d like it to be right next to the wind energy area,” Doswell said at the meeting, held at the Virginia Housing Center in the Innsbrook Corporate Center in western Henrico County. “That is our No. 1 choice.”
Dominion Resources, Dominion Virginia Power’s parent company, is one of the firms interested in harvesting wind energy in the 112,799-acre lease tract off the Virginia coast. The federal government has not set a date for an auction of the large area offshore.
Commercial development of Virginia’s offshore wind resources would likely occur no sooner than 2022 and perhaps as late as 2027.
Electricity from sea-based wind turbines costs more than twice as much as energy from Dominion Virginia Power’s current sources of electric generation, the company said, though it believes those costs could be reduced.
Dominion Virginia Power is the state’s largest electric utility, serving more than 2.3 million customers.
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