Virginia has the potential to be a leader in the development of offshore wind power in the U.S. Virginia is not only positioned to produce a significant share of our electricity from offshore wind, but also to manufacture and supply wind turbines to offshore wind farms up and down the East Coast.
According to a 2010 Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium report, offshore wind has the potential to generate as much as 10% of Virginia’s electricity and to create thousands of jobs in construction, components manufacturing and electricity generation throughout the Hampton Roads region.
Virginia is uniquely positioned to harness offshore wind for electricity because of its optimal winds, shallow water depths and proximity to existing transmission lines. In 2010, the Virginia General Assembly strengthened Virginia’s position by establishing the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority to expedite the protracted federal permitting and leasing process.
In February 2011, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu identified four large areas off the Atlantic Coast that will be eligible for offshore wind leasing by the end of 2011, including a zone roughly 20 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach and encompassing nearly 746 square nautical miles. The Department of Defense completed an assessment early in 2011, clearing most of the tracts under consideration for wind development.
Two Virginia-based companies, Apex Wind Energy and Seawind Renewable Energy Corp., have already submitted lease applications to the U.S. Interior Department – the lead agency in charge of leasing offshore wind sites to developers. The Interior Department hopes to begin considering these applications and others by the end of 2011.
The 2010 Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium report identified 25 potential lease blocks 12 to 15 miles off Virginia’s coast encompassing more than 220 square miles that would be suitable for wind energy production. Most of these blocks are under consideration by the Interior Department. The Consortium believes that multiple wind farms in these lease blocks would have the potential to generate 3,200 megawatts of electricity and generate 9,700 to 11,600 permanent jobs over a 20-year period.
Not only is there enormous potential for generating electricity from offshore wind in Virginia, Hampton Roads’ manufacturing base is equipped to play a leading role in building the massive turbines that will be required for offshore wind farms up and down the Atlantic Coast.
To learn more about Virginia’s offshore wind potential, please visit www.vcerc.org. For more information about the leasing of offshore wind sites in Virginia, please visit the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement at www.boemre.gov.