The Chesapeake Bay will play host to the country's first-ever off-shore wind turbine next year, Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Tuesday.
The single turbine -- a prototype that the energy company Gamesa Energy USA will use to test the viability of larger off-shore wind farms -- will be installed three miles off Virginia's Eastern Shore, near Cape Charles. Gamesa is paying the state $52,667 to build the turbine and has pledged to pay another $2.1 million to remove the structure if it's decommissioned, though the towering turbine could remain in place for 20 years.
The turbine will stand 479 feet above the water and produce about 5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power up to 1,500 homes in Cape Charles.
Building off-shore wind farms isn't a new idea. In recent months, the Obama administration agreed to allow several East Coast states to host off-shore turbines, but Virginia is the first to approve the construction of one.
Virginia was able to move more quickly than other states because the turbine it approved is being erected in state-owned waters. Most other states have to get approval to erect them in federal waters.
McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell said the turbine is part of the governor's "all of the above" approach to energy that would "embrace different types of energy," including projects being built by private companies.
The Bay is ideal for the country's first off-shore wind turbine, Caldwell said, because it provides favorable geographic conditions, including a "wind field" in the Bay's shallow waters.
State officials said they encountered no public opposition to the project during a public comment period. Instead, area fishermen said they looked forward to the turbine's installation because it would attract fish, Virginia Marine Resources Commission spokesman John Bull said.
"We're just excited. This is the first of its kind in the nation, and it's here in Virginia," Caldwell said. "We hope that as we move forward we can develop more of this technology."