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Wind turbine test facility to be built on the Eastern Shore

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An international joint venture is planning to build a wind turbine testing and certification facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore in what is seen as a next step in launching an offshore wind industry in Hampton Roads.

The project, known as Poseidon Atlantic, will be designed to test and certify turbines as tall as 750 feet and will be located in Northampton County. The project is a private-sector initiative with support from Virginia agencies and Northampton. It’s expected to create 20 to 25 jobs over the next two years.

“This is the perfect interim step between where we are now and the offshore development construction in Hampton Roads,” said Paul Vosbeek, co-founder of Poseidon Atlantic and Real NewEnergy, one of the companies involved in the project. “It allows supply chain manufacturers and construction companies to come together and do some development work in preparation for a larger offshore development in the region.”

Poseidon Atlantic would be a full-testing and certification facility for up to 10 wind turbines. It would be able to test both onshore and offshore wind turbines, used in the generation of electricity. a

Vosbeek said the Eastern Shore was chosen because of sustained wind in the area, available space, proximity to the Port of Virginia and a recent ordinance passed by the Northampton County Board of Supervisors that would allow a testing facility for turbines of up to 750 feet. Vosbeek said the group already was already looking at the area and worked with the supervisors to design the ordinance.
“The local government was very supportive,” Vosbeek said.

In announcing the project last night during a dinner for potential stakeholders, Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said it has “huge potential for Virginia. If this industry takes root and matures, we could create thousands of new jobs in manufacturing, construction, logistics, operations and maintenance activities.”

Poseidon Atlantic hopes to begin construction on the facility in the third or fourth quarter of 2012. The development phase would cost about $1.5 million and construction between $5 million and $7.5 million. “After a turbine has been certified it can be commercially marketed,” Vosbeek said. The testing and certification is the final step of a manufacturer’s research and development phase, Vosbeek said. “No bank or investor will invest in a wind project that does not have certified turbines.”

The group’s private partners include: Real NewEnergy, headquartered in Rockville, Md., a sustainable energy consultant; Ecofys, a Dutch company that has developed more than 20 offshore wind projects; and Fugro, a Dutch firm that provides geotechnical engineering and has been part of more than 100 offshore wind projects in Europe.

A number of public-sector groups are supporting the project, including the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Virginia Port Authority, Northampton County and the Royal Netherlands Embassy.

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