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Virginia Economic Roundup: Dominion Virginia Power Wins Right to Develop First Virginia Wind Farm

Dominion Virginia Power (DVP) recently won the right to develop the first wind energy farm off the Virginia coast with a bid of $1.6 million.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), when fully developed, the 112,799-acre lease — located about 27 miles from the Virginia Beach shoreline — could generate 2,000 megawatts, enough to power more than 700,000 homes.

Dominion expects the first wind turbine to be installed in about 10 years, pending the necessary federal and state approvals. DVP must submit a site assessment plan to BOEM within six months. Within one year of signing the lease, the company must give the agency a construction and operations survey plan for site characterization work and geotechnical surveys.

When the site assessment plan is approved, DVP will have 4 ½ years to give BOEM a construction and operations plan for its approval. The agency then must perform an environmental analysis.

“Offshore wind has the potential to provide the largest, scalable renewable resource for Virginia if it can be achieved at reasonable cost to customers,” said Mary Doswell, senior vice president for alternative energy solutions at Dominion Resources.

The sale still has to be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for antitrust considerations.

If the proposal is ultimately approved, DVP will have an operations term of 33 years for the lease and will pay the federal government $338,397 in annual rent, in addition to the lease payment. DVP said the company, not its customers, will bear the lease and rent cost at least until the wind farm starts making power.

In other energy news, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has approved plans by Richmond-based Dominion Resources — DVP’s parent company — to export liquefied natural gas to non-Free Trade Agreement (FTA) countries from its Dominion Cove Point facility, located on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

The DOE had previously approved Dominion’s plan to export to countries with FTAs.

The proposed facilities are expected to cost between $3.4 billion and $3.8 billion. Pending receipt of regulatory approval and permits, construction is expected to begin next year and the plant is expected to be in service in 2017.

The company still must get approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Maryland utility regulators.

Virginia Companies Named to Fortune’s Fast-Growth List

Fortune has named three Virginia companies — Iridium Communications, Measurement Specialties and Portfolio Recovery Associates — to its list of the 100 fastest-growing companies.

Iridium, a technology company based in McLean, came in at No. 70 with three-year average growth rates of 38 percent in revenue, 69 percent in profit and -8 percent in total return.

Measurement Specialties, a technology company based in Hampton, came in at No. 89 with rates of 20 percent in revenue, 42 percent in profit and 50 percent in total return.

Portfolio Recovery Associates, a financial services company based in Norfolk, came in at No. 98 with rates of 28 percent in revenue, 36 percent in profit and 32 percent in total return. The company also appeared on the list last year.

To qualify for the list, a company must:

  • Offer its stock for trade on a major U.S. stock exchange
  • Report data in U.S. dollars
  • File quarterly reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • Have a minimum market capitalization of $250 million and a stock price of at least $5 as of June 28, 2013
  • Have been trading continuously since June 30, 2010

Foreclosure Activity Falls in Virginia

Foreclosure activity fell in Virginia and the Richmond and Hampton Roads metro areas in August from the same month in 2012, according to a report from online foreclosure researcher RealtyTrac.

Foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — fell 44.4 percent in Virginia from August 2012. Filings declined 36.1 percent from August 2012 in the Richmond area and 26 percent in Hampton Roads.

Nationwide, foreclosure activity fell 33.4 percent.

In other housing news, housing prices in the Fredericksburg area hit their highest level in more than five years in August, according to data from Metropolitan Regional Information Systems.

The median sales price of the 471 homes sold in August in the Fredericksburg area through the Multiple Listing Service was $262,000, up 12 percent from August 2012 and the highest median price since July 2008. The number of sales represented a 37 percent increase from August 2012.

Report: Tough Road Ahead for Services Contractors

According to a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report issued in September, contractors specializing in providing services to the federal government have been one of the early casualties of reduced federal spending.

Federal services contract obligations fell to $308 billion in fiscal 2012, down from a peak of $356 billion in 2009. CSIS said it expects additional reductions.

“Services contracts will decline measurably further,” CSIS spokesman David Berteau said. “We seem unlikely to return to past peaks.”

China Lifts Ban on Virginia Hardwood Log Exports

China lifted a two-year-old ban on Virginia hardwood log exports after a successful year-long pilot program.

China banned all log shipments from the Port of Virginia and the Port of Charleston in 2011 over concerns about invasive pests. In June 2012, China began a pilot program that allowed Virginia to export softwood and hardwood logs. After that program, China lifted the ban completely.

Phytosanitary certificates issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) can be issued effective Sept. 15. APHIS recommends that the 24-hour duration fumigation schedule may be maintained for hardwood logs.

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