The ocean survey is intended to spare developers the preliminary steps needed to create wind farms in offshore tracts. Companies already face daunting costs to develop wind energy.
Richmond-based Dominion has expressed its interest in developing the entire lease area, which it has said has the potential of generating 1,500 to 2,000 megawatts of electricity, enough energy to power 500,000 households. Apex Offshore Wind, based in Charlottesville, is another Virginia company that has expressed interest.
Dominion has said it's interested in building up to 400 wind turbines in Atlantic waters, but 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 said that's a significantly higher than what its residential customers currently pay for electricity.
Oceana has objected in a filing with BOEM to one company claiming the entire leasing area, which is allowed under federal guidelines.
"Then you get one big energy company that has a lot of money — like Dominion, for example — and they can buy the lease and if they decide not to develop it right away all these other companies are sitting with their arms crossed, waiting," Savitz said. By allowing more than one company to lease in the area, "you don't have all your eggs in one basket."
Bornholdt said BOEM has leasing regulations that would prevent energy companies from "banking" lease areas — acquiring leases but not developing them. A company, however, still has up to five years to provide a construction and operation plan.
The other companies that have expressed interest in the lease area are Arcadia Offshore Virginia, Cirrus Wind Energy Inc., enXco Development Corp., Fishermen's Energy, Iberdrola Renewables and Orisol Energy US Inc.
Steve Szkotak can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sszkotakap.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management: http://www.boem.gov/