Published on HamptonRoads.com | PilotOnline.com (http://hamptonroads.com)
Officials enthusiastic about wind power possibilities
With the future of military spending uncertain, environmental, business and political groups rallied on Monday around an industry they think could fill any future economic void: wind power. "Hampton Roads is ready to be a hub for the offshore wind industry," said Madison Poche of Environment Virginia, a group that released a report touting the benefits of wind power at a downtown Norfolk news conference.
Officials from Virginia Beach, Norfolk and the local ship repair association said the region is ripe to become a "supply chain" center for a local wind energy industry. That could include building the foundations for turbines and installing them in the ocean. States from South Carolina to New England are working on plans to develop offshore wind farms to generate electricity. There are none in the U.S.
Dominion Virginia Power in September won an auction to lease nearly 113,000 acres of federal waters off Virginia Beach for a wind energy project 24 miles off the coast. The company has five years to come up with a plan. Dominion is also seeking federal funding to build two demonstration turbines near the lease area site. That experiment, if it moves forward, would allow Dominion to gather wind data and try to reduce the expected costs of building windmills in the harsh marine environment.
Bill Crow, president of the Virginia Ship Repair Association, said the 253 companies he represents are positioned to support a wind power industry in Hampton Roads, especially if there is a significant decline in military spending.
"This is a hand-in-glove perfect fit," he said.
He said supporting a vibrant wind power industry in Virginia would be the equivalent of bringing three aircraft carriers to the region. One challenge is to make sure companies get incentives to defray the cost of developing the expensive wind energy technology, officials said. They are pushing Congress to extend tax credit programs for wind power that are set to expire at the end of the year.
Bob Matthias, a Virginia Beach city official who heads up the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority, said tax incentives are important because of the enormous cost of creating a new industry. He said each turbine - 470 feet across and 500 feet tall - could cost $35 million to $40 million.
"It's a large investment for any corporation," he said. "It costs more to begin with but the energy source is free."
Aaron Applegate, 757-222-5122, email@example.com
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