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Project seeks to smooth way for offshore Va. winds

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm •  Published: March 13, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The state is teaming up with Dominion Virginia Power in a research project that is intended to smooth the way for the development of an offshore wind industry.

The Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advance Project proposes putting two 6-megawatt wind turbines on platforms designed to withstand hurricane-force winds. The turbines would be located 24 nautical miles (27 statute miles) off Virginia Beach.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced Thursday it is seeking written public comment on the project as it prepares an environmental assessment. It scheduled a meeting for April 3 in Virginia Beach for the public to speak out on the proposal.

Last September, Dominion submitted a successful bid of $1.6 million bid to lease nearly 113,000 offshore acres for the development of wind power. Full development of the area could produce 2,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 700,000 homes.

Besides the turbines, the project would also include cable linking the turbines to the electric grid in Virginia Beach. The project is expected to be operational by 2017.

The so-called demonstration project received a $4 million grant from the U.S. Energy Department. In May, the DOE will select up to three projects nationwide for further advancement with $47 million in grants. The "demonstration area" is adjacent to the area designated for wind power development.

The area was carved out of the Atlantic after extended negotiations involving the Navy, Coast Guard, commercial fishing interests, port officials and NASA, which operates a launch center on the Eastern Shore. This section of the coast is one of the busiest on the Eastern seaboard. It includes the world's largest naval base in Norfolk.

Studies have estimated that the development of an offshore wind industry in Virginia would create about 10,000 jobs.

Partners in the research project include the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, the Energy Department, and related industry groups.