Federal agency moving forward with offshore wind energy plan

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced on Thursday that it is moving forward with the next step in offshore wind energy development off the Virginia coast.

The BOEM is publishing the call for information and nominations aimed at industry interest in locations off the Virginia coast for commercial wind energy leases. The call is the first step in the leasing process. It describes the areas that will be made available and solicits expression of interest from developers.

Developers will have 45 days to respond to the call. Once responses are received, BOEM will determine whether their leasing process will be competitive or non-competitive.

“We are working closely with the Commonwealth of Virginia to facilitate the commercial leasing process for renewable energy in federal waters off Virginia’s coast and are building on the steps that the Commonwealth has taken to encourage offshore wind development,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “This, along with the completion of BOEM’s environmental assessment of leasing in the mid-Atlantic area, are significant milestones in identifying and refining priority areas for potential offshore commercial wind energy development.”

The location under consideration in today’s announcement — or call area — was identified by the intergovernmental Virginia Renewable Energy Task Force, which includes federal, state, local and tribal government representatives. The call area is intended to maximize the area available for commercial offshore wind development while balancing these efforts with military and commercial shipping interests and the protection of the environment.

“Cost-effective development of Virginia’s offshore wind resources is one important component of our overall effort to make Virginia ‘The Energy Capital of the East Coast,’” Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said. “America must continue to generate electricity from traditional sources such as coal, nuclear and natural gas, while moving forward in pursuit of innovative alternative sources like wind, solar and biomass.

“We must also maintain reasonable energy costs and a reliable, consistent supply. Our partnership with BOEM, and this step forward toward offshore wind development builds on the strong foundation laid by the Virginia Task Force and our private partners like the VOW Coalition, Huntington Ingalls, Gamesa and others,” McDonnell said.

The BOEM in its move did reduce the potential leasing area in Virginia by 19 percent to accommodate shipping interests and concerns from the Coast Guard, leaving open some 113,000 acres.

The Bureau said it expects to issue numerous leases in the Mid-Atlantic this year resulting from a competitive bidding process.

“We  commend the Obama administration for taking this vital step towards bringing offshore wind energy to Virginia and other mid-Atlantic states,” said David Carr, a senior attorney and general counsel at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

“The offshore wind industry has the potential to create huge amounts of power and thousands of jobs , while reducing our dependence on dirty fossil fuels,” Carr said. “It’s time now for Virginia to double-down on its  support for developing a truly sustainable energy future, beginning with shifting Gov. McDonnell’s misplaced emphasis on opening our coast to oil and gas drilling to instead developing this clean energy source.”


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