The first off-shore wind farm in the United States could be coming to the First State.
Bluewater Wind, a developer of off-shore wind energy, is one of the companies competing for a long-term energy contract with Delmarva Power.
Delmarva Power is requesting a proposal for an energy provider to help stabilize the price of energy in the state. Bluewater Wind is one of the companies competing for the contract, along with NRG, which has proposed expanding its coal facility on the Indian River Bay. Delmarva Power will choose an energy company in November.
“The utility of wind, of course, is that once it’s built, it’s free forever,” said Jim Lanard, a spokesman for Bluewater Wind. “Delmarva Power wants a proposal that guarantees price stability. On day one, we’ll know what the price is 20 years later because the price of fuel [wind] has remained the same: Free.”
Bluewater Wind is proposing building as many as three wind farms that would generate a total of 600 megawatts of energy. While the price of fuel is free, the price of building the windmills will come to about $800 or $900 million, Lanard said.
Wind farms off the coast of Delaware are a possible energy source, said Dr. Willett Kempton, a professor at the University of Delaware.
“We think it’s very attractive, not just feasible,” Kempton said. “It could be an export industry.”
The University has been studying the wind off the coast of Delaware for 20 years. From that research, Kempton has concluded that there is enough wind for a wind farm that could generate 14,000 megawatts of energy, enough to power Delaware and sell leftover energy to neighboring states.
The wind is strongest near Cape Henlopen and some parts of Rehoboth Beach, according to the University of Delaware’s research, but Bluewater Wind has not pinned down locations for its proposed wind farms.
“None will be closer than 6.6 miles to land,” Lanard said. “We’ve done that because even though it’s more expensive, it takes away the issue of the view from the shore.”
Sen. George Bunting (D-Bethany Beach) has researched off-shore wind power and believes it is a viable option for Delaware. “This is more than just pie in the sky stuff,” he said.
At the same time, he acknowledges that putting in windmills off shore is controversial, because they would probably be visible from land.
Anticipating that some coastal residents might object to a wind farm on the horizon, Bluewater Wind has tried to minimize the sight of the windmills.
“At 6.6 miles on a hazy summer day, you couldn’t see them. On a clear winter day, you would see something about half the size of your thumb nail,” said Lanard, adding that the windmills would have “the thinness of a toothpick” to someone looking from the beach.
Clarksville resident Harvey Melson likes the idea of having off-shore wind power.
“If it would make my electric bill cheaper it wouldn’t bother me a bit,” he said.
Len Kidwell, a full-time resident of Bethany Beach, expressed support for a possible wind farm, but on a condition. “We’d be getting more power,” he said. “But I think it’s important that it wouldn’t obscure the beauty of the beach.”
South Bethany Town Councilwoman Bonnie Lambertson echoed Kidwell’s assessment. “I’m on the fence about it,” she said. “I’m not against wind power at all. I’m not against any alternative power.”
But, she added that she is against an inexperienced wind power company that would not do a thorough job researching and constructing the wind farm.
“I am also against having them really close to the shore so that it marks a pristine view,” Lambertson said. “I think once they get that worked out, then we’re fine. But there are a lot of problems that need to be worked out first.”
Even if Delmarva Power awards the contract to Bluewater Wind in November, a wind farm would be about least three years off.
Bluewater Wind estimates that the project will take two full years to permit. It will look at environmental studies and try to minimize the effect on birds and fish, Lanard said. Constructing the wind farms would take about 180 days.
The amount of power generated by a wind farm would fluctuate with wind speeds.
“There are times when the wind doesn’t blow and then our turbines don’t spin,” Lanard said, but added fossil fuel-based power plants have similar issues. “Traditional power plants go out for maintenance and for problems. Sometimes they go out because there isn’t a need for power at that time.”
There are numerous off-shore wind farms in Europe and there are many land-based wind farms in the western United States. However, there no off-shore wind farms in the U.S. yet. Projects have been proposed in New York and Massachusetts, but “it may be that we can get [to Delaware] first,” Lanard said. “We want to honor the Delaware ‘first’ tradition.”
By Sara Smith Staff Writer
Reach Sara Smith by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.