Energy companies hope to build in Delaware the first offshore wind farm in the nation, as well as a “clean coal” plant larger than any in the country.
Three companies say they will file papers with Delmarva Power and the Public Service Commission by a Dec. 22 deadline to supply the company with power to help meet the state’s long-term energy needs.
Delmarva was required to seek in-state suppliers for 400 megawatts of power under guidelines approved in October by the state Public Service Commission. That came after the state deregulated the energy industry, leading to a 54 percent rate increase for electricity to residential customers this spring.
Three applicants have filed notices of intent to bid with the Public Service Commission:
“¢NRG, which operates the coal-burning 784-megawatt Indian River plant in Millsboro, is offering to add a coal gasification facility to its plant that will generate an additional 580 megawatts of electricity.
“¢Hoboken, N.J.-based Bluewater Wind wants to build a wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean off the Delaware coast to supply about 600 megawatts.
“¢Conectiv Energy of Christiana is seeking to build a 360-megawatt plant, or a smaller 180-megawatt plant, in an undisclosed location.
The state would compare the winning bid or bids with open market prices before it decides whether to approve them. Delmarva officials have estimated that if they accept the plant or plants, they would be up and running by 2013.
Princeton, N.J.-based NRG’s proposed plant would use coal gasification technology, sometimes called “clean coal.” The process turns coal into a gas, while allowing for pollutants such as sulfur to be removed. It is one of three such plants that NRG is proposing to build along the East Coast, said Ray Long, director of the company’s Northeast region. Each plant could cost more than $1 billion to build, Long said.
Dave Bayless, a professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio University, said gasification requires 10 percent to 20 percent less coal than traditional coal pulverization to produce the same amount of energy.
There are only two coal gasification plants currently operating in the United States, one in Indiana, the other in Florida. Both produce about 300 megawatts of energy.
“They’re expensive to build. That’s why you haven’t seen people rushing off to build one,” Bayless said.
Building a gasification plant as big as the one NRG is proposing is unprecedented in this country, he said.
Bluewater Wind would set up a wind farm on one of three offshore sites, said Jim Lanard, director of strategic planning and communication.
It would build 200 turbines either 10 miles off the shore of Rehoboth Beach or seven miles off the shore of Bethany Beach, or 182 turbines off the shore of Slaughter Beach, Lanard said. Each turbine would produce three megawatts of electricity.
The goal of Delmarva’s request for proposals was to stabilize the price of electricity in Delaware, Lanard noted. “We can predict with a great deal of certainty what the price will be every year,” he said.
Conectiv is proposing a project that uses “combined cycle technology,” according to its notice of intent to bid filed with the commission. The notice does not specify what sort of fuel would be used to produce the electricity. Conectiv has combined-cycle plants in Wilmington and Bethlehem, Pa., that run on natural gas.
The proposed Conectiv project would not be a coal gasification plant, said spokesman Bill Yingling. He declined to disclose the proposed site.
However much energy each plant produces beyond the amount Delmarva needs can be sold on the open market, officials with NRG and Bluewater Wind said.
By Aaron Nathans, The News Journal
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