Bluewater Wind wants the first state to build the first offshore wind plant in the country.
While the United States has many on-shore wind farms, Bluewater is proposing to build a wind farm off the Atlantic Coast. The company is proposing two locations: one 11 miles off the coast of Rehoboth Beach; the other, 6.9 miles off the coast of Bethany Beach. The plant would include 200 turbines and could start spinning as early as 2010.
“Off-shore wind is renewable. It never runs out of fuel. The wind is always free and there’s no carbon emissions,” said Jim Lanard, a spokesman for Bluewater Wind.
The proposal has rallied many Delaware citizens and environmental groups, as well as a University of Delaware professor who studies wind off the coast.
But the wind plant has not been without controversy. Some critics contend that the wind does not blow enough to make the proposal viable, while others object to the view from shore.
Building off shore
Each wind turbine would be 256 feet high from the surface of the water. Turbine poles would be hammered 90 feet into the sand in a process similar to building a bridge, Lanard said. It would take two seasons, working April to October, to put all the turbines in place.
The spinning of the rotors, which is the part of the turbine that has windmill-like blades, generates electricity. The electricity is carried via underground cables to one of two transformers that would be located nearby.
Four larger cables would connect the off-shore transformers to the existing Delmarva Power substations onshore. The cables would be installed with a drill that goes sideways underground, Lanard said.
“This will all be done in the off season,” he said. “We will not do any work in the summer beach and tourist season.”
The major advantages of wind power is that wind is free, renewable and does not pollute.
“We provide clean, stable-priced, renewable energy at a price that saves Delaware citizens considerable money,” Lanard said. “There is stable pricing. Bluewater Wind knows on day one of its operation the price of electricity 20 years later, and that’s because fuel prices don’t change.”
The fact that wind is free, Lanard said, means Delmarva customers will pay less in electricity costs in the long run.
In addition, wind plants, unlike fossil fuel plants, don’t have any carbon emissions.
“There’s no pollution whatsoever,” Lanard said. “As a result, global warming and greenhouse gas concerns don’t exist with offshore wind.”
He added that in the event of a tax being placed on carbon dioxide emissions, a wind plant would not have to worry about the extra cost or pass it on to consumers. The other two proposals for the energy contract – NRG’s IGCC coal plant and Conectiv’s combined cycle plant – could be taxed for carbon emissions in the future, although NRG will capture 65 percent of its carbon emissions if Delmarva Power wants that option.
Tilting at windmills
Critics of the proposal argue that wind power is too unreliable to fulfill the requirements Delmarva Power has set out. NRG, which is proposing an IGCC coal plant at its current Indian River plant, said wind is intermittent, whereas their proposal offers base load power generation.
“Wind is a terrific resource, and there’s absolutely a place for it in Delaware and elsewhere,” said Caroline Angoorly, senior vice president for NRG’s northeast region. “But it’s going to be operative only when the wind blows.”
Last year NRG acquired a wind farm company, Padoma Wind Power, but chose the IGCC plant for Delaware because it better meets the project’s criteria, Angoorly said. Delmarva Power asked for base load technology, which provides a steady power flow, she said.
“Wind patterns are pretty well established. When you look at those patterns, wind doesn’t traditionally blow in the still of a July afternoon,” when energy demand is at its highest as people run their air conditioners, Angoorly said.
She added the wind plant would be generating at no more than 40 percent of its capacity at any given time.
Bluewater Wind said the turbines will be producing energy 85 percent of the time. And even though power generation fluctuates, people’s lights will not go out, Lanard said. The PJM, which oversees transmission lines in the mid-Atlantic region, can regulate the amount of power on the grid second by second. This ensures that there is not too much or too little electricity on the electrical grid, even with fluctuating power from wind plants.
“People who raise this are right to raise it, because the wind doesn’t always blow,” Lanard said. “There will be times in the summer when the wind is lighter than in the winter….But as we say, 85 percent of the time there will be enough wind.”
Willett Kempton, a professor at the University of Delaware’s College of Marine & Earth Studies – who studies offshore wind – said coal power is different from wind, but not necessarily superior.
“When either of the two are on, the IGCC will be on a lot of the time at full capacity, whereas the wind operating is going to be based on wind (speed),” he said. “That makes the power out of a coal plant more valuable.”
NRG would receive a higher capacity payment from Delmarva Power than Bluewater Wind, Kempton said, based on NRG’s ability to control its energy output.
“It’s just a different kind of power generation,” Kempton said.
As for wind power’s generation capacity, Kempton agreed with Angoorly’s assessment that a wind plant off the coast of Delaware would be generating about 40 percent of its capacity, or in Bluewater Wind’s case, 240 MW of energy on average.
“By the way we’ve calculated it (based on) the way the Bluewater Wind facility (would be) built, it would provide 18 percent of the needs within the state of Delaware,” Kempton said.
A new view?
Opponents of Bluewater Wind’s proposal also argue that wind turbines off the coast would mar a pristine view.
In anticipation of these criticisms, Bluewater Wind decided to build the plant at least 6 miles off the coast. On a hot, hazy day, Lanard said, people on the beach won’t be able to see the turbines at all. On a colder, clear day, the turbines will have the thinness of a toothpick and the height of half a thumb nail, he said.
Navigation lights for shipping and aviation are required, but both would be barely visible from shore, if at all, Lanard said.
But some locals remain skeptical. Michael Tyler, a Lewes resident, said wind is not the answer for Delaware in a recent letter to the editor. “I want my grandchildren to be able to see the ocean the way the Native Americans saw it and the way I saw it,” Tyler wrote, “not with hundreds of eye-polluting windmills.”
Marge Gassinger, a South Bethany town councilwoman, also objects to the sight of the turbines. The wind turbines would have lights on them, which would be visible at night, she said at a Feb. 9 town council meeting. Lights on 200 wind turbines off shore would “look like Las Vegas,” Gassinger said.
# Reporter Katie Wais contributed to this article.
By Sara Smith
18 February 2007
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding