A research plan recently approved by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management clears the way for building a pair of 6-megawatt wind turbines off the Virginia coast, a step toward future development along another reach of the Atlantic continental shelf.

The first wind energy Research Activities Plan (RAP) for federal waters was developed by Virginia Electric and Power Company (dba Dominion Resources Inc.), the designated operator for a research lease that the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy applied for in 2013. The site is about 24 miles off Virginia Beach, Va., just outside the western edge of the Virginia wind energy area designated by BOEM for future development.

The plan describes the proposed construction, operation, maintenance, and eventual decommissioning of the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project (VOWTAP), funded in part with a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to Dominion Resources, Virginia and other partners.

Those DOE grants are aimed at developing better offshore wind technologies to drive up efficiency and push down costs. Virginia officials must submit two additional reports detailing design, fabrication, and installation engineering details for BOEM approval before construction can begin. When complete the 12-megawatt installation could provide power for up to 3,000 homes, according to the federal agency.