Delaware Electric Cooperative customers could soon be buying wind power.
The cooperative, and its Virginia-based supplier, announced Tuesday they were joining Delmarva Power in its quest for land-based wind power.
It’s unclear how much wind power the cooperative, which serves 72,000 member-customers, would purchase. Unlike Delmarva, the cooperative is not required by state law to buy renewable power.
Bill Andrew, the cooperative’s president, said the possible purchase could be a good business deal. The wind power would be “very competitive with all energy that we purchase through the market.”
Delaware Electric is a part owner of Glen Allen, Va.-based Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, which has coal-fired, gas-fired and nuclear power plants. Old Dominion supplies the 12 electric cooperatives that own it.
Delmarva’s effort to buy land-based wind power, announced in January, comes in response to state renewable power purchase requirements. It was also spurred by a state effort to order Delmarva to sign a 25-year deal for offshore wind power.
Andrew said joining Delmarva’s bid was not an effort to stop legislation that would spread costs of the Bluewater Wind offshore project to all electric customers in the state, including his coop’s members.
“It has nothing to do with Bluewater. It is a good deal for my membership,” Andrew said.
Land-based wind power can be competitive on price with traditional fuels once a federal production tax credit is taken into account, said Brian Yerger, a Wilmington-based alternative-energy research analyst at Jesup & Lamont Securities.
But Yerger added that it costs more to transmit that wind power from afar.
The Bluewater contract came in response to a state mandate that Delmarva seek new, in-state sources of electricity in an effort to stabilize electricity prices. None of the land-based wind power projects are expected to be based in Delaware.
Delmarva President Gary Stockbridge has argued offshore wind power is too expensive. He said his company received 35 bids so far from land-based wind developers, which would provide their power at a significantly lower cost than power from offshore wind.
The utilities are expected to analyze the bids through late April.
“We’re all working together toward a solution. It makes it more likely we get to the end result, we get there cheaper, more efficiently,” Stockbridge said referring to the buying power of multiple utilities.
Jeremy Firestone, an associate professor in the College of Marine and Earth Studies at the University of Delaware, said the move would be good for coop customers, but could have consequences for other Delaware residents.
If it leads to the demise of the Bluewater project, the coop’s purchase could mean no wind power for customers of municipal utilities in places like Newark and Dover. A group of municipal utilities has signed an agreement to buy power from Bluewater if the offshore project goes ahead.
Delaware Electric Coop has all of its customers in Sussex and Kent counties.
By Aaron Nathans
26 March 2008
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