BOEM Gives Approval for First Wind Farm in Federal Waters

The Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) demonstrator project

Published Oct 21, 2019 9:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

Public utility Dominion Energy has secured final approval from the federal Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) to move forward with a two-turbine offshore wind demonstration project off the coast of Virginia. It will be the first commercial offshore wind installation in federal waters.

Construction of the shoreside infrastructure for the project began in July. Last week, BOEM said that it had no objections to Dominion's offshore development and installation plans, clearing the way for work at the lease site to begin. Ørsted has the lead as developer, and Siemens Gamesa is providing the turbines. 

The installation's two turbines have a combined nameplate capacity of 12 megawatts, and they will be used to evaluate the site's suitability for a far larger development The Commonwealth of Virginia is interested in facilitating the buildout of full commercial-scale offshore wind, including 2,000 to 2,400 megawatts of potential generation in an area adjacent to the trial project.

“This is a significant milestone as we move forward on building the first-ever fully permitted offshore wind project in federal waters,” said Dominion VP of generation construction Mark Mitchell in a statement. “This process will provide key learnings we can apply to our commercial-scale offshore wind project.”

Thomas Brostrom, CEO of Orsted US Offshore Wind, hailed the permitting decision as a major first for an offshore wind farm in U.S. federal waters. The lessons learned from the permitting process will help bring "regulatory efficiencies and increased certainty" for other developments, he added.

Full BOEM permitting is an important first for a wind project in federal waters, especially in light of recent agency actions. In August, BOEM took the controversial decision to delay permitting for the first American utility-scale development, the 800 MW Vineyard Wind project, calling for more study on the effects of the industry as a whole on fisheries and other stakeholders. 

Virginia signs major renewable energy contract

On Monday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed a contract with Dominion Energy to commit the state to purchasing an additional 420 MW in renewable power for its own use, including 345 MW of solar and 75 MW of onshore wind. The announcement is part of Northam's blueprint to make Virginia's electric power supply carbon-free by 2050. The ambitious plan calls for at least 3,000 megawatts of solar and onshore wind under development by 2022, plus as much as 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind in operation by 2026.

“Today, Governor Ralph Northam announced the Commonwealth of Virginia commitment to using its purchasing power for the largest government renewable energy procurement by 2022. This will include the first offshore wind project in federal waters," said Liz Burdock, CEO and president of the Business Network for Offshore Wind. "As the Commonwealth continues to embrace offshore wind energy into its energy mix the relationship between clean energy development and job growth will become clear. The days of the zero-sum game are gone. Offshore wind creates onshore jobs."