RICHMOND (AP) -- Before energy companies invest in developing wind energy off Virginia's coast, they'll need to know what's out there.

That was part of the discussion Thursday at a meeting of the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority in Richmond. The authority is attempting to smooth and speed up the development of a vast federal leasing area into wind farms.

But little is known about the area about 25 miles off Virginia Beach.

Authority members discussed some efforts already under way to move along offshore wind development. One involves the placement of ocean platforms at the perimeters of the leasing area to gather information on winds and bird activity and another study of the ocean floor.

The federal government expects to conduct an auction this year, perhaps as early as this spring.

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