The federal government announced Thursday it’s moving forward with developing wind energy off Virginia’s coast.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is looking for industry interest in wind development off the coasts of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. It’s the first step in the leasing process.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced his decision in a call with Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).

The news was cheered by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and environmentalists who have long wanted the state to move in this direction. 

  “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,’ ” McDonnell said in a statement.

The location was identified by the intergovernmental Virginia Renewable Energy Task Force, which includes federal, state, local and tribal government representatives.

“Offshore wind power will lower the true cost of power for Virginians and bring us greater price stability and energy independence,’’ said Glen Besa, director of the Sierra’s Club’s Virginia chapter, who applauded the decision.