With all the discussion of a wind farm possibly being placed in the ocean spanning Delaware’s resort coast, the question comes up – is it all just talk?
There have been many public meetings, seminars and lectures regarding the offshore wind farm’s proposal and a lot of vocal support for it.
The wind farm was proposed by Bluewater Wind in response to Delmarva Power being required by the state to look into ways of adding to the power supply.
It is one of three bids – the other two being a cleaner-coal facility by NRG and a natural gas plant by Conectiv. Conectiv scored highest in last month’s bid evaluations, with Bluewater Wind coming in second and NRG, third.
The bids are under review by four state agencies: the Public Service Commission, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Office of Management and Budget and the Controller General’s Office.
Delmarva Power representatives have requested all three bids be thrown out.
Company representatives, state officials and a pair of scientists offered their opinions on the offshore wind farm’s chances.
Delmarva Power spokeswoman Merrie Street cited two reasons for her company’s request to dismiss the bids.
The contracts proposed are too long; each proposal would generate excess power and would cost its customers more money.
Street said Delmarva Power does not discount the viability of wind power, but the company does not want customers to see higher bills because of its construction.
“We believe that wind power should be an option,” Street said. “If they could create funding opportunities to do this huge wind farm, that would be wonderful.”
“Bluewater Wind continues to be optimistic,” spokesman Jim Lanard said of his company’s chances at being awarded the power supply project.
Bluewater is contest-ing some aspects of its bids evaluation, particularly its price rating, which company representatives have said is lower than it should be.
According to Lanard, Bluewater Wind is filing a motion with PSC to have its bid re-evaluated.
Lanard said a re-evaluation would help correct errors made by the consultants who, according to him, were not well-versed enough in offshore wind power to make a proper recommendation.
Lanard said with a corrected bid evaluation the state agencies involved in the selection process will have a very easy decision – to go with the offshore wind farm.
“I think all of us like the idea,” Minner said of the wind farm proposal during a recent visit to Dewey Beach, adding she thinks many are taking a bigger interest in green technologies.
Minner said she thinks placing it in the ocean could be the best idea, though she hopes planners are taking shipping lanes into account when looking at potential sites.
“We’re all very optimistic,” she said of the wind farm’s chances for approval.
“Clearly the Bluewater proposal offers clean and renewable energy,” DNREC Environmental Program administrator Philip Cherry said, citing that both have been pushed by DNREC for years.
Cherry said the wind farm does have some “footprint” issues, because it would take up a lot of aquatic real estate. He also said people may disagree with an offshore wind farm based on aesthetics.
However, he said it would benefit marine life surrounding the individual posts by creating an artificial reef system.
Robert Scoglietti of the state’s Office of Management and Budget said the wind farm is a viable proposal and is being equally considered with Conectiv and NRG bids.
“I think they’re all contenders,” Cherry said of the bids. “It’s too soon to say where the process will end.”
University of Delaware College of Marine and Earth Sciences associate professors Jeremy Firestone and Willett Kempton have been following the three proposals.
They released their own review of the bid evaluations and both favor the offshore wind farm above the other two.
“The decision is between the wind farm and no bid,” Firestone said.
Kempton agreed, saying the price to consumers would not increase as much as was initially expected.
The Bluewater Wind proposal would raise customer rates just over 3 percent for the first few years, the professors estimate.
“That’s a pretty modest rate increase,” Firestone said, comparing it to a 60-percent increase many Delaware customers saw last year.
While the independent consultants and Delmarva Power evaluators placed Conectiv’s natural gas proposal at the top, Firestone said he does not think it is the best proposal.
“It’s sort of the same-old, same-old,” Firestone said of the Conectiv bid. “To me, it doesn’t meet the intention of the legislation.”
Firestone said the Bluewater farm would give customers long-term price stability and cleaner power.
By Daniel Divilio
25 March 2007
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