BALTIMORE (AP) -- The government is taking the first step toward developing wind energy off Virginia Beach and several East Coast states and it wants to hear from you.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Thursday announced it will call for information and nominations for locations off Virginia.

'Cost-effective development of Virginia's offshore wind resources is one important component of our overall effort to make Virginia 'The Energy Capital of the East Coast,' said Gov. Bob McDonnell.

The call is the first step in the leasing process. It describes the areas that will be made available and solicits expression of interest from developers. Developers will have 45 days to respond to the call. Once responses are received, BOEM will determine whether their leasing process will be competitive or non-competitive.

The call area is intended to maximize the area available for commercial offshore wind development while balancing the interests of military and commercial shipping and the protection of the environment.

'We are working closely with the Commonwealth of Virginia to facilitate the commercial leasing process for renewable energy in federal waters off Virginia's coast and are building on the steps that the Commonwealth has taken to encourage offshore wind development,' said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. 'This, along with the completion of BOEM's environmental assessment of leasing in the mid-Atlantic area, are significant milestones in identifying and refining priority areas for potential offshore commercial wind energy development.'

Glen Besa, Director of Sierra Club Virginia Chapter said the announcement is great news.

'We have a tremendous product to offer with those wind turbines spinning off Virginia's coast; it's a product that supports the creation of over 10,000 Virginia jobs and powers over 700,000 Virginia homes. What we don't have yet is a buyer of all that wonderful clean renewable energy.'

He said offshore wind power will lower the true cost of power and bring greater price stability and energy independence.

The Mid-Atlantic lease proposal follows the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts that was given the go-ahead in 2010 after years of federal review. That project is still in development.

AP-WF-02-02-12 0917GMT

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