Maritime industry officials in Virginia remain actively involved in efforts to promote the development of offshore wind farms and say the Port of Virginia represents an ideal staging area for the massive equipment and infrastructure necessary to produce energy from wind.
The port has lay-down space for wind towers, blades, cable and other hardware and equipment at its 285-acre Portsmouth Marine Terminal, which recently was converted to a breakbulk and roll-on/roll-off cargo facility after many years as a container terminal, Rodney Oliver, the Virginia Port Authority's interim executive director, said Thursday at the Virginia Maritime Association's (VMA) annual conference in response to an audience question. There is also some capacity at the 141-acre Newport News Marine Terminal, which also handles irregular cargo and special projects, he said.
Early in his term, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell set a goal to make the state a wind energy hub for the East Coast. Since 2010 his administration has pushed for development of wind projects off Virginia's coast and touted the state as an ideal platform for manufacturing and distributing parts for other wind projects. The Virginia Offshore Wind Coalition, made up of wind developers, manufacturers, utilities, localities and other businesses, is working to grow political, community and business support for offshore wind development. It's members include the Port of Virginia and Maersk Line Ltd.
VA Turbine Rendering
The U.S. Interior Department and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management established an area off Virginia's coast that will be made available for offshore wind projects. The federal government plans to auction a development lease for 113,000 acres in that area this year. In December, the U.S. Energy Department awarded Dominion Power a $4 million grant to begin initial engineering, design and permitting for a 12-megawatt wind turbine demonstration facility located 22 miles off Virginia Beach in federal waters, with the aim of achieving commercial operation by 2017. The Dominion Power project, along with six others, will receive up to $47 million over four years, subject to congressional appropriations.
Twelve megawatts provides enough energy to power 3,000 homes at peak demand.
Dominion Power is interested in obtaining offshore leases in an area it says has the potential to generate about 1,500 to 2,000 megawatts of electricity, or enough electricity for 500,000 homes at peak demand.
Port officials view wind energy as an opportunity to spur economic development in the Hampton Roads area, with the port serving as a landing point for imports from foreign manufacturers and as a base for project developers to supply projects along the East Coast.
"I think we will combine our efforts to make sure that the Port of Virginia takes full advantage of this great opportunity," said VMA Executive Vice President Art Moye, who serves on the states' Offshore Wind Development Authority. - Eric Kulisch