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Companies Signal Interest In Offshore Va. Winds

By STEVE SZKOTAK

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) â¿¿ An energy company developing the nation's first offshore wind project is among the growing number of companies expressing interest in the federally designated wind-development area 27 miles off Virginia's coast.

Energy Management Inc., developer of the Cape Wind project in federal waters off Massachusetts' Cape Cod, and Sea Breeze Power Corp. alerted the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that they might join the bidding later this year to develop wind energy in the 133-square-mile area off Virginia Beach. They join Dominion Virginia Power and seven other energy companies that have already expressed interest.

EMI confirmed it has submitted materials to qualify for participation in the coming auction, "should we choose to do so," a company spokesman said. Sea Breeze, a western Canada company, did not respond to requests for comment.

The development area was carved out of the Atlantic after extended negotiations involving the Navy, Coast Guard and port officials, among others. This section of the coast is one of the busiest on the eastern seaboard. BOEM said the interest by energy companies is gratifying.

"When you finally put forth a proposal for a wind-energy area and you receive this level of interest, then that does confirm that we're offering an area that has commercial interest," said Maureen Bornholdt, BOEM's program manager for renewable programs. "That's a good thing."

Gov. Bob McDonnell's top energy adviser, Maureen Matsen, welcomed the industry interest as well. She said Wednesday it "only confirms the unique value of the wind resource off our coast and the strong support attributes Virginia offers onshore."

Advocates of offshore wind power agree that the relatively shallow waters off Virginia are optimal for development and its port and shipbuilding industry offer an ideal platform to build and launch the towering turbines and blades that convert wind to energy.

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