Virginia offshore wind power research wins DOI approval

U.S. begins its first offshore wind farm

The Interior’s Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said March 24 that it has approved the first energy Research Activities Plan for a facility to be located in U.S. federal waters.

Last year, bureau awarded a research lease to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy on the Outer Continental Shelf off the coast of Virginia. The bureau action clears the way for the installation and operation of two 6 MW wind turbines and associated cabling to shore, pending final engineering review of the project.

The electricity generated by these wind turbines could power 3,000 homes, bureau noted in a news release.

The RAP was developed by the department’s operator, Dominion unit Virginia Electric and Power Co., and describes the proposed construction, operation, maintenance, and eventual decommissioning of the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project.

The 42-page document also touches on issues ranging from lighting to ensuring that the facility avoids contact with ships or whales.

In 2012 Dominion received a Department of Energy Offshore Wind Demonstration Project Award and partnered with the department and others to establish VOWTAP. The award, funded by the DOE, was made to enhance the deployment of stronger, more efficient offshore wind energy technologies.

This was also one of three projects to receive support from DOE in 2014 and 2015 for RAP development, including survey and deployment activities.

In February 2013, the department submitted a research lease application to bureau for the installation and operation of two 6 MW turbines and associated cabling to shore. bureau 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 the department to submit a RAP for which bureau prepared an Environmental Assessment that was published in December 2014 for public comment.

Based on the comments received and results of environmental consultations, bureau prepared a revised assessment and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact in September 2015. With the FONSI and interagency coordination complete, bureau has conditionally approved the RAP.

The conditions of approval provide safety, physical, environmental and cultural protections beyond those mitigations and measures proposed by the department in the RAP. the department is required to submit for bureau’s review two additional reports detailing design, fabrication, and installation engineering details prior to actual construction.

"The approval of Virginia's Research Activities Plan marks another important step in our mission to be the first state to install offshore wind turbines in federal waters off of Virginia's coast," said Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).

“Data collected under this research lease will help us better understand the wind potential, weather and other conditions relevant to generating power from wind offshore Virginia,” said bureau Director Abigail Ross Hopper. “It will also allow us to gain experience with new offshore renewable energy technology, which is not only valuable to Virginia and bureau, but also to other government agencies, the offshore renewable energy industry, and other stakeholders.”

More information about this project, including the research lease, revised assessment, the department’s RAP, and bureau’s conditions of approval can be found here:

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