September 26, 2012

Dominion eager for Va. offshore wind projects

Virginia is seeking to survey a vast expanse of the ocean floor and document wind, waves and wildlife offshore to smooth the way for development of wind turbines by energy companies, among them the owner of Connecticut's Millstone nuclear power station, The Associated Press reports.

The proposed exploration 27 miles off Virginia Beach encompasses 113,000 acres, or 133 square miles, in the federally designated wind development area. Eight companies have expressed an interest in building towering turbines there to capture wind for energy.

The eight include Dominion Resources Inc.'s Dominion Virginia Power, the state's largest utility, as well as international interests. Dominion owns Millstone in Waterford.

The Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy is proposing two initiatives. One seeks proposals by Oct. 17 to survey the ocean bottom to determine if it can hold massive support structures for wind turbines, which would rise hundreds of feet above the surface. The other involves building platforms along the edges of the commercial lease area.

The so-called metocean platforms would use instruments and human observers to map and measure wind speeds and direction, water levels, and bird and bat activity.

The initiatives are intended to spare developers the preliminary steps needed to create wind farms in offshore tracts overseen by the U.S. Department of the Interior and to create an environment for energy companies to move forward with wind energy plans, state officials said.

No commercial wind power is produced in waters off the U.S., although a project off Cape Cod, Mass., could begin producing electricity in 2014. A project known as the Atlantic Wind Connection, backed by Internet giant Google and other investors, is moving forward with the construction of a 380-mile power line that would enable up to 7,000 megawatts of electricity to be produced at offshore wind farms from Virginia to New Jersey.

Wind power advocates have said Virginia is uniquely positioned to nurture the industry because of the relatively shallow waters offshore and strong winds. It also has the coastal infrastructure — a shipbuilding industry and a deepwater port — to allow for building and delivering turbines. Studies have forecast the creation of thousands of jobs as an offshore wind industry is developed.

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