Delmarva Power and state officials have until the end of February to decide who could be a new electric provider in Delaware.
Among the choices is offshore wind power, which could be a first for the First State.
“We know that the on-shore wind resource is really pretty poor, we know that the offshore wind resource is really much better,” said Phil Cherry, energy program administrator for the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
“It’s very appealing from an environmental point of view.
“The problem is could you afford to build it in Delaware, and if you could afford it, would the public be accepting of these things off the shore of Delaware?”
When Delmarva Power announced a 59 percent rate increase last year, the state leapt into action to find ways to keep a lid on further hikes.
State legislation required Delmarva Power to seek instate suppliers for 400 megawatts of power.
Three energy companies, NRG, Conectiv, and BluewaterWind, met the state’s Dec. 22 deadline to bid for the chance to enter into a long-term contract with Delmarva Power as an electric provider.
NRG of Princeton, N.J., has proposed building a coal gasification plant – where coal is turned into a gas and then burned – at its Indian River power plant in Sussex County.
Conectiv Energy near Wilmington has proposed a 300-watt power plant or a 180-watt plant in the state.
Hoboken, N.J.-based BluewaterWind has proposed installing offshore wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean off the Delaware coast or in the Delaware Bay.
Bluewater spokesman Jim Lanard said the company on Thursday submitted answers to follow-up questions the state had about its bids.
“We’ll hope that we are one of the bidders selected for more detailed analysis,” Mr. Lanard said.
“We are eager to be part of Delaware’s energy future.”
Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach were suggested locations for a 200-turbine offshore Atlantic windfarm and Slaughter Beach was a proposed 182-turbine windfarm site in the bay.
Each windmill, Mr. Lanard said, generates 3 megawatts of electricity.
One of the proposed windfarms, he said, could supply energy to about 130,000 households.
Installing the turbines, Mr. Lanard said, would cost about $1.5 billion.
“˜Wind is always free’
The state Public Service Commission, DNREC, the state Office of Management and Budget and the legislative controller general’s office will review the bids with Delmarva Power.
“A host of different factors will be applied to the evaluation,” Mr. Cherry said.
Criteria include environmental impacts, location, cost, reliability and price stability.
He said the legislation allows more than one bidder to be chosen, but Mr. Cherry said it’s too soon to say what would happen.
“Practically speaking, there’s a limit on how much new (power) generation Delaware needs,” he said.
“We don’t want to overbuild at the expense of the rate payers either.”
Mr. Lanard and others say wind power offers some significant advantages.
“What wind power offers is a stable price that we do not see in fossil fuel plants,” Mr. Lanard said.
“We are clean energy, zero emissions technology and free energy resources. The wind is always free.”
He also said the state faces possible federal carbon taxes on power plants that use fossil fuels such as coal and oil to generate electricity.
Studies mentioned on various Web sites have cited noise, aesthetics and possible bird hazards as disadvantages to wind turbines.
Mr. Cherry did not want to predict public reaction to offshore wind farms.
“It’s a matter of personal taste,” he said.
“I happen to find them attractive, because I can look at them and know they’re putting out electricity and know they’re not putting out pollution.
“And with the cost of pollution these days and with the cost of health care and the resulting health impacts of air pollution “¦ these things are not healthy for people to be breathing.
“So wind should really be appealing.”
Alan J. Muller, executive director of the environmental advocacy group Green Delaware, favors wind power.
“It’s a no-brainer good idea,” Mr. Muller said.
“Delaware has a tremendous opportunity to do the right thing rather than the wrong thing. I think wind power is clearly the right thing.”
He said there is skepticism to the viability of wind as a power source.
“Coal is what’s familiar, it’s the establishment,” Mr. Muller said.
“Wind is a little more unfamiliar and wind doesn’t blow all the time.”
Dr. Willet Kempton, a professor in the University of Delaware’s College of Marine Studies, has been studying offshore wind for about three years.
“It’s Delaware’s largest economic competitive power source,” he said.
He also disagreed with some of the disadvantages mentioned in some studies.
Delaware, he said, has a gradually sloping continental shelf and has a lack of land-falling hurricanes, giving it an advantage over other states.
Delaware offshore winds, he said, blow 85 percent of the time.
The proposed wind farm, he estimated, could provide 18 percent of the state’s energy needs.
The resource of offshore winds is more than five times Delaware’s electric use, Dr. Kempton said.
The use of wind power could lead to spin-off industries in Delaware, such as the sale of energy and turbine manufacturing plants and affiliated services, the professor said.
“The resource that Delaware has, it’s several times the energy needs in this state, Dr. Kempton said.
“And we don’t have any natural gas or oil, so all those things we’re buying from other states.”
Wind power technology, he said, is not only here to stay, but is growing in popularity and decreasing in cost.
General Electric and Siemens electric, he said, are manufacturing wind turbines.
Wind farms are common in several other states such as California, Texas and Montana, as well as other countries such as Denmark, India and England.
The reason wind power hasn’t been used everywhere for years is cost, the professor said.
“If you wanted to put it in five years ago, it would have cost twice as much,” Dr. Kempton said.
“This is a very rapidly evolving technology. Five to 10 years from now, it’s going to be the cheapest source for electricity.
“This is an opportunity for Delaware to move ahead and develop business, develop expertise by our workers, maybe attract manufacturing to Delaware, develop service related to wind operations.
“In terms of economic development, does Delaware want to build one of the last coal power plants on the East Coast or build one of the first offshore wind farms on the East Coast?”
Dr. Jeremy Firestone, also at UD’s College of Marine Studies, has led a survey on how receptive people could be to offshore wind power and other factors.
Results could be released within a couple of weeks, he said.
Public comments and questions from the survey can be accessed at www.ocean.udel.edu/windpower.DE-Qs.
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By Kate House-Layton, Delaware State News
Staff writer Kate House-Layton can be reached at 741-8242 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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