Feds to write environmental review on Virginia offshore wind project

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) intends to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) to consider the reasonably foreseeable environmental consequences associated with the approval of wind energy-related research activities offshore Virginia.

This would be in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME), the bureau said in a notice to be published in the March 14 Federal Register.

BOEM is seeking public input regarding important environmental issues and the identification of reasonable alternatives that should be considered in the EA. In addition to the request for written comments, BOEM is holding a public scoping meeting to solicit comments on the scope of the EA. The meeting will be held on April 3 in Virginia Beach, Va.

On Dec. 9, 2013, BOEM published a Determination of No Competitive Interest for a research lease requested by DMME. A lease issued to DMME would be considered under BOEM’s Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and EA for Lease Issuance and SiteAssessment Activities on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf Offshore New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

DMME has submitted a Research Activities Plan (RAP) to BOEM. The RAP describes the proposed construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project (VOWTAP), and includes the results of site characterization studies, such as geophysical, geotechnical, archaeological, and biological surveys.

DMME’s proposed project would consist of two 6-MW wind turbine generators (WTGs), a 34.5-kV alternating current (AC) submarine cable interconnecting the WTGs (inter-array cable), a 34.5-kV AC submarine transmission cable (export cable), and a 34.5-kV underground cable (onshore interconnection cable) that would connect the VOWTAP with existing infrastructure located in Virginia Beach. Interconnection with the existing infrastructure also would require an onshore switch cabinet, an underground fiber optic cable, and a new interconnection station to be located entirely within the boundaries of the Camp Pendleton State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach.

The offshore components of the VOWTAP, including the WTGs and inter-array cable, would be located on the Outer Continental Shelf approximately 24 nautical miles offshore of Virginia Beach, while the export cable would traverse both federal and state submerged lands. Onshore support facilities would be located at existing waterfront industrial or commercial sites in the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and/or Newport News, Va.

The proposed action that will be the subject of the EA is the approval of the RAP. In addition to the no action alternative (disapproval of the RAP), other alternatives may be considered, such as exclusion of certain areas from project siting or modification of project activities.

This March 14 notice starts the scoping process for the EA and solicits information regarding important environmental issues and alternatives that should be considered in the EA. The EA would informs all federal decisions, including those by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which are needed to determine whether and, if so, how the proposed action will proceed.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.