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Virginia wind
Virginia shares in sales of first off-shore leases for wind energy generation.

Date published: 12/11/2012

GOV. McDonnell announced on Nov. 30 that Virginia will be one of three states, along with Massachusetts and Rhode Island, included in the first-ever renewable wind-energy lease sale on the outer continental shelf.

The development of wind energy is a controversial topic in itself, but the bipartisan nature of this announcement is a breath of fresh air. The Republican governor praised the cooperation between his administration and that of President Obama--the collaboration giving the concept momentum.

The leased area off Virginia should eventually be capable of supporting more than 2,000 megawatts of wind generation--enough electricity to power some 700,000 homes.

While deriving energy from wind sounds like a clean and innovative answer to the world's future energy needs, it has its share of drawbacks and detractors. The technology is expensive and the vast majority of turbine construction takes place overseas. The turbines stand accused of killing large numbers of birds and bats. And it's not the most constant power source--dependent, as they say, on how the wind blows.

But there are other perspectives that put the pursuit of wind power in a more positive light. It need not be considered the solution to the world's future energy needs, but rather part of the solution. Wind plays a valid role in the Obama administration's inclusive "all of the above" alternative-energy policy. Other countries are helping to prove its potential as a significant energy source.

For Mr. McDonnell, putting Virginia at the forefront of alternative energy development promises a payoff in jobs and economic development. Like the $200 TV you bought on Black Friday that probably cost $1,000 just a few years ago, increased popularity and use of wind-power technology will reduce its price over time, too.

Meanwhile, Virginia is positioning itself well to be the green energy hub that the governor envisions. Should the lease sales later expand to other states, they'll look to Virginia for hardware and expertise.

State officials will need to deepen their relationship with their federal counterparts at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The agency is surveying the ocean bottom for areas most conducive for erecting turbines and will later assist in laying transmission lines to bring the energy back home. Continued communication and cooperation will be key if the effort is to succeed. A 60-day comment period on the lease sales ends on Feb. 1, 2013.