Ocean bureau awards lease for Dominion’s offshore Virginia wind project

Virgina Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced March 24 that Virginia is the first state in the nation to receive a wind energy research lease in federal waters from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). 

McAuliffe said: “Developing our clean energy resources is an essential element of building a new Virginia economy. With this research lease, Virginia is positioned to be the first state to build wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean and take the next step toward the clean energy economy we need to create jobs and lower energy costs now and into the future.” 

“Virginia is well-positioned to become the east coast hub of future offshore wind energy development and the supply chain that supports it,” said Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones. “This research lease provides a tremendous opportunity to develop a level of expertise about offshore wind development previously unseen in the U.S. BOEM has been a tremendous partner with the Commonwealth on this project, and we look forward to continuing that relationship in the future.” 

“The data collected under this research lease will help us understand the wind potential, weather and other conditions relevant to standing up wind power generation offshore Virginia,” said BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper. “This data will be valuable not only to BOEM and DMME, but also to other government agencies, the offshore renewable energy industry, universities, environmental organizations and others.” 

The Commonwealth applied for the research lease in 2013 and has named Dominion Virginia Power as the designated lease operator. Execution of the 30-year lease is an important step in the project to allow Dominion to construct and operate the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project (VOWTAP), which will consist of two Alstom 6-MW turbines to be located approximately 24 nautical miles east of Virginia Beach. The intent of VOWTAP is to demonstrate successful installation and generation of power 24 nautical miles offshore, validate the estimated wind resource potential in the lease area, identify inefficiencies and gaps in offshore wind development, and utilize a previously untested regulatory process established by BOEM. 

The research lease area is adjacent to Dominion’s commercial Wind Energy Area. Data gathered from the two test turbines will support Dominion’s future commercial-scale wind power development by reducing costs, maximizing turbine availability and service life, and minimizing environmental impacts. This research will benefit wind energy developers across the globe. 

Future commercial wind energy development projects that will result from VOWTAP research are expected to create several thousand jobs in Virginia and add to the development of domestic clean energy resources in the United States. The wind energy research lease is with Virginia’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME).

In 2012 the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced funding awards for seven proposed “Offshore Wind Demonstration Projects.” One of the awards was given to Dominion Resources (NYSE: D), the parent of Dominion Virginia Power. This was also one of three projects to receive a second funding award from DOE in 2014 for deployment activities.

In 2013, BOEM determined there was no competitive interest in the area where the state agency proposed to conduct these activities and proceeded with the leasing process on a non-competitive basis. That decision cleared the way for DMME to submit a Research Activities Plan for which BOEM developed an environmental assessment (EA) that was published in December 2014 for public comment. Based on the comments received and depending on the results of ongoing consultations, BOEM said it will revise the EA with a Finding of No Significant Impact or issue a notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.

Upon completion of BOEM’s technical and environmental reviews and other reviews required by federal law, BOEM may approve, approve with modifications or disapprove the Research Activities Plan. DMME must receive BOEM’s approval of its Research Activities Plan prior to the installation of the two turbines and associated cabling to shore.

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.