Virginia wind-farm potential suddenly up for bidding

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - (AP) The federal government says it plans to sell leases for wind farms off the coasts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Virginia, marking the first time it has sold competitive leases for wind energy on the outer continental shelf.

The Department of Interior and its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Friday said the leases for two areas totaling more than 430 square miles would be sold next year.

The area off Rhode Island and Massachusetts will be leased in two parcels, while the Virginia area will be available as a single lease. The zones range from 9.2 to 23.5 nautical miles from land.

Officials say each area could be developed to generate enough electricity to power 700,000 homes.

“Since the first days of our administration we have urged the Department of the Interior to move aggressively on development of the unique and promising wind energy resources off of Virginia’s coast," Gov. Bob McDonnell said in a statement.

"There is energetic interest in the resource off of Virginia’s coast. We look forward to a Virginia lease sale, and to building an industry in Virginia that will serve offshore wind development up and down the East Coast and bring good-paying jobs to our commonwealth."

The conservation group Oceana calls the announcement a major step in developing domestic clean energy.