Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

The Interior Department announced this week it will hold America’s second-ever competitive lease sale for offshore wind on 112,800 acres located 23.5 miles from Virginia Beach with 2,000 megawatts potential renewable energy capacity.

Clean Power

Virginia’s Coastline Could Soon Be Home To 2 GW Of Offshore Wind

The Interior Department announced this week it will hold America’s second-ever competitive lease sale for offshore wind on 112,800 acres located 23.5 miles from Virginia Beach with 2,000 megawatts potential renewable energy capacity.

Virginia’s coastline could be the next US offshore wind hotspot, if the US Department of the Interior (DOI) gets its way.

Virginia offshore wind lease auction area map

Virginia offshore lease auction map via Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

DOI announced this week it will hold America’s second-ever competitive lease sale for offshore wind on the US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) September 4th, for 112,800 acres in a prime development zone 23.5 miles from Virginia Beach.

The announcement comes one week before DOI’s first competitive offshore wind lease auction is held for 164,750 acres for development off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island on July 31st, an event Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has said could set the pace for future auctions.

2 GW Offshore Wind Potential Up For Auction

Unlike the New England auction, the Virginia offshore wind area will be offered as a single lease, to eight qualified bidders. DOI predicts the area, composed of 19 full- and 13 sub-OCS blocks, has the potential to generate more than 2,000 megawatts (MW) of renewable electricity – enough to power 700,000 homes.

Offshore wind farm

Offshore wind farm image via CleanTechnica

“The competitive lease sale offshore Virginia will mark an important transition from planning to action when it comes to capturing the enormous clean energy potential offered by Atlantic wind,” said Secretary Jewell. “Responsible commercial wind energy development has the potential to create jobs, increase our energy security, and strengthen our nation’s competitiveness.”

America’s coastal waters hold enormous wind energy potential – roughly 1,300 gigawatts (GW), according to a 2012 estimate. Even harnessing a realistic fraction of this potential could generate 52GW of clean electricity, while creating 300,000 green jobs and $200 billion in economic activity.

“Smart From The Start” Approach May Speed Development

But while the potential for offshore wind is massive, development has been held back by concerns over local aesthetics, environmental impacts, and economic realities. DOI’s newest push, however, could finally calm the rough waters that have swamped proposed projects like Cape Wind.

DOI’s efforts are part of President Barack Obama’s challenge to the agency to approve an additional 10,000MW of renewable energy production on public lands and waters by 2020. Using this “Smart from the Start” approach to stakeholder involvement, DOI hopes to expedite responsible development of commercial-scale wind energy off America’s coastline.

This auction block was selected through a coordinated process with Virginia’s government and environmental stakeholders to minimize ecological and local concerns. Consultations included multiple federal laws like the Endangered Species Act and Coastal Zone Management Act.

As a result, the 112,800 acres avoid sensitive habitat along the Chesapeake Bay, military training areas, marine vessel traffic, a dredge disposal site, and areas of concern specified by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Business Concerns Still Loom Large

Anticipating environmental and local concerns is great and all, but the journey from DOI’s auction to generating clean electricity will be driven by business concerns – and those concerns are real.

Eight companies have expressed interest in the auction, and been deemed eligible to participate, including some of the world’s biggest and most experiences wind developers like Iberdrola and EDF Renewables. But potential development could be swamped if Virginia’s state utility, Dominion Virginia Power, wins the auction.

Environmentalists have raised concerns that if Dominion is awarded the lease rights, it might “drag its feet” to develop the area in light of existing investments in natural gas generation and nuclear power (full disclosure – I am a Dominion residential electricity customer).

In addition, because Virginia does not maintain a competitive electricity market, other developers may face difficulties in securing power purchase agreements for their Virginia offshore wind turbines. Without access to the local market, developers may have to look for customers in electricity markets in other states or wait until the Atlantic Wind Connection is complete.

Can America Keep Up In The Offshore Wind Race?

Regardless of Dominion’s involvement, the larger message is clear – DOI is setting sail for the future of America’s offshore wind industry and joining other US efforts to go from potential to reality.

There are approximately zero utility-scale offshore wind projects being built in the US, and we’re rapidly losing the opportunity to lead in a market estimated to be worth around $170 million by 2020.

If DOI’s first two lease auctions go well, we may see many more approved in the near future, and America might finally be on its way to catching up to our European competitors and keeping pace with the growing Asian market.

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Written By

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.


You May Also Like

Clean Power

CAÑON CITY, Colorado — The Bureau of Land Management announced today it is auctioning 1,064 acres of public land for solar energy production in...

Clean Power

Google & LevelTen Energy are dialing the renewable energy industry up to 11 with a new streamlined system for negotiating power purchase agreements.

Clean Transport

A new super-sized electric truck from the company Scania is hitting the road in Norway.

Climate Change

A pilot project has estimated emissions and removals of carbon dioxide in individual nations using satellite measurements.

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.