Virginia could soon be generating clean, renewable electricity for its residents from an offshore wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean. On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) began auctioning a lease to build a wind farm on nearly 112,800 acres located 23.5 miles from the Virginia Beach coastline. The wind farm has the potential to generate 2 gigawatts (GW) of renewable electricity – enough to power 700,000 homes.
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Virginia’s Atlantic coastline has massive wind energy potential. According to the Virginia Offshore Wind Coalition, there are class six wind speeds along the state’s shoreline, which is the second highest wind power density possible. The East Coast is one of the best potential wind markets in the world. A 2012 report found that building wind farms up and down the Atlantic coastline could create 52 GW of clean energy that could power 14 million homes while creating over 300,000 jobs and $200 billion in new economic activity.
This will be the federal government’s second competitive bid for offshore wind farms after the first-ever auction was held in July for 164,750 acres off Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Eight companies are bidding for the lease, including Dominion Power, Apex Clean Energy, Energy Management, EDF Renewable Development, Fishermen’s Energy, Iberdrola Renewables, Sea Breeze Energy and Orisol Energy U.S.
“Offshore wind along the entire Atlantic Coast could eventually meet all our electricity needs,” said Glen Besa, director of the Sierra Club in Virginia. “With this investment in clean energy would come thousands of jobs in the manufacture of components for these massive turbines and in the marine construction industry.”
“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 Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “Responsible commercial wind energy development has the potential to create jobs, increase our energy security, and strengthen our nation’s competitiveness.”