Dominion Virginia Power has progressed on its plan to build what will be the first wind research turbines in U.S. waters by breaking the project’s EPC contract into four smaller packages, utility officials said on April 7. The contracts will cover construction and operation of two 6-MW turbines and related cabling for the project, 27 miles offshore from Virginia Beach, next to the utility’s lease area for future commercial development of up to 2,000 MW. The U.S. Dept. of the Interior in March approved the R&D project design and implementation plan.

The original cost estimate for the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project was $230 million, but the only complete bid received last year for its construction was between $375 million and $400 million, said Mary Doswell, a Dominion senior vice president. “The bid was far beyond what is reasonable for 12 megawatts,” she said. Dividing the project cut the price to about $300 million, said Mark Mitchell, vice president for general construction. Dominion leads the developer team, which includes state and federal agencies, Virginia Tech, Alstom Power, KBR, Newport News Shipbuilding and Tetra Tech. Bid details have been released to key consultants and to the U.S. Energy Dept., but not publicly for competitive reasons, says Dominion.

The project’s original 2017 completion date has slipped to 2018, Mitchell said. The $300 million price would still be a “heavy lift,” he said. While DOE funding is capped at $51 million, project partners have contributed $25 million, with Dominion covering the remainder unless Congress authorizes more.

Also last month, the Interior Dept. completed an initial review of an unsolicited lease request for a floating wind-energy project, offshore from Morro Bay, Calif.