- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2012

RICHMOND — A Virginia commission has paved the way for construction of a 5-megawatt wind generator prototype 3 miles off the town of Cape Charles, which would be the country’s first offshore wind energy turbine.

The prototype would last 20 years or more, and its purpose is to advance the demonstration of new offshore technology of Gamesa Energy USA LLC, designed for worldwide environments. The project must now be approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and reviewed by the U.S. Coast Guard.

“This is an important next step in developing all of Virginia’s domestic energy resources to help power our nation’s economy and puts Virginia at the forefront of clean energy technology development,” said Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican. “Virginia’s unique and efficient permitting process adopted for small energy projects like this one was a critical factor in Gamesa’s choice of Virginia as the location for this U.S. wind energy operation, and today we see the fruit of these proactive policies.”

The turbine is not intended as a major energy resource, but should improve local air quality, according to Mr. McDonnell’s office.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, is taking a second crack at getting legislation through the Maryland General Assembly this year, albeit on a significantly larger scale than Virginia.

The legislation would allow wind energy firms to set up turbines off the Eastern Shore and sell renewable energy credits to in-state energy companies.

Mr. O’Malley has said that implementing offshore wind will help the state meet its goal of getting 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2022, up from the current 7 percent. The bill has passed the House Economic Matters Committee, but legislators remain skeptical. Mr. O’Malley has said that it will increase utility bills by no more than $2 per month.