Conservationists celebrate landmark offshore wind lease in Virginia
Conservation groups praised the Obama Administration’s announcement on Friday of a lease sale for the offshore wind energy area 23.5 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. The Department of the Interior announced it would be conducting a competitive lease sale for the 112,800-acre area identified last February. DOI will auction the entire area as a single lease. The lease sale is an important step and is the result of cooperation among regulators, environmentalists, utilities and state lawmakers-all of whom support offshore wind energy for Virginia.
The Virginia Conservation Network and Southern Environmental Law Center urged Congress to act now to extend the investment tax credit for offshore wind, warning that these credits are necessary to garner strong bids and to bring projects to completion. As with any new energy technology, federal incentives are critical for getting the nascent U.S. offshore wind industry up and running.
The Virginia Wind Energy Area is expected to support more than 2,000 MW of wind generation-enough electricity to power 700,000 homes. Europe already has over 4,000 MW of offshore wind operating and powering European homes.
“Virginia’s Atlantic coast has some of the best offshore wind energy resources in the world. The technology to harvest it is ready right now, and we have workers ready to do the job,” said Chelsea Harnish, VCN energy programs manager. “We need to take advantage of this golden opportunity to make our electricity supply cleaner, more wildlife-friendly, and more secure.”
“Offshore wind development will create thousands of permanent, high quality jobs in Virginia, and help us address climate change threats like rising sea levels in Tidewater and increasing storm intensities,” said David Carr, General Counsel of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Congress needs to send a clear signal that America is committed to clean energy and extend the tax credits.”
Today BOEM is issuing the proposed lease sale notice that sets the terms and conditions of a lease. Developers and the public will have 60 days, until February 1, 2013, to comment on the proposed lease terms. The final sale notice is expected in the first quarter of 2013. Eight firms, including Dominion Power, filed interest with BOEM in participating in the lease sale. Would-be offshore wind developers have indicated, however, that project financing will be contingent on the extension of federal tax credits.