Bluewater Wind’s parent company has pledged to make Delaware the hub of its mid-Atlantic offshore operations if the state approves a long-term wind electricity contract with Delmarva Power.
Lt. Gov. John Carney requested the promise from Babcock and Brown, an Australia-based global energy and investment company that acquired Bluewater last year. Carney announced Thursday that the company had agreed to the pledge.
Bluewater is looking at ports, staging areas and training areas in Delaware, including at the Port of Wilmington and near Milford, Bluewater spokesman Jim Lanard said.
Such facilities would be used to construct turbines for Babcock-owned wind farms off the shores of other states, too, Lanard said.
Each state would also have local operation sites, he said.
Carney said putting the center in Delaware could mean hundreds of jobs during potential multi-year construction projects in Maryland and New Jersey.
Bluewater plans to bid on a proposed wind farm off the coast of New Jersey, and has expressed interest in building off the coasts of Maryland and Long Island, N.Y. Bluewater was passed over for the Long Island project, but the winning bid got shelved last year after increased cost estimates. Bluewater wants to see the project re-bid.
Carney, who is running for governor, said he hopes the pledge will convince reluctant members of the General Assembly to get behind the contract.
“It’s clear to me this is a real opportunity for Delaware to get in on the ground floor,” Carney said.
In December, lawmakers forced a deadlock among four state agencies, as the other agencies were poised to direct Delmarva to sign a 25-year wind power deal with Bluewater. House members are considering legislation to move the project ahead, and a Senate committee will hold hearings on the matter starting Thursday.
The nation could, in the coming years, pass a national version of a law requiring utilities to buy a large amount of renewable power, Carney said. Delaware and other states have such a law on the books. If that comes to pass, “Wind power would take off,” he said.
Lanard has said the Delaware project would bring 400 to 500 construction jobs to the state and at least 80 ongoing operations and maintenance jobs.
He would not speculate how many Delaware jobs would be created by work on out-of-state projects. But Carney suggested the construction jobs could linger in Delaware to work on other projects after the Rehoboth Beach project is complete.
Treasurer Jack Markell, the other Democratic candidate for governor, noted that he was the first statewide elected official to endorse the proposed wind farm. He said it has long been understood that by being the first to build an offshore wind farm in the area, Delaware would reap the economic advantages that come with building a manufacturing infrastructure.
He said he was not aware in advance of Carney’s announcement, but was not upset.
“Anything that can create job opportunities and economic development opportunities for Delawareans is a good thing. I’ve said from the beginning, Delaware has a great opportunity to be first,” Markell said.
Sen. Charles Copeland, R-West Farms, a skeptic of the wind contract, said it was a positive development for a state losing its manufacturing jobs, and a wise move for Bluewater.
Copeland wondered whether Babcock would have decided to make Delaware its center of offshore operations anyway, without the pledge, “but it does solidify it some. And I think Carney ought to get credit for making them say that publicly.”
It’s always good during an election year when politicians actually do what the voter is requesting of them,” Copeland said.
But he said the announcement was short on specifics, and still doesn’t make the project any more affordable for low-income Delaware ratepayers.
Bill Yingling, Delmarva spokesman, said customers would save more by buying onshore wind power, and “this savings would have a far more favorable economic impact on consumers than any package Bluewater has brought forward.”
The Bluewater proposal answered a legislative request for in-state generation proposals; there are no plans for an in-state wind farm on land.
By Aaron Nathans
1 February 2008
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