Bluewater Wind to study avian effects of wind turbines
Delmarva Power has been pushing the virtues of onshore wind power since the off-shore wind project it opposes was tabled in December. Now the Delaware Electric Co-op says it is teaming up with Delmarva Power to buy on-shore wind because the price is favorable.
So far, Delmarva Power has received 37 bids from out-of-state on-shore wind power generators, said Delmarva President Gary Stockbridge. All bids are due in at the end of March.
“On-shore wind is a leading technology,” said co-op president Bill Andrew. “This is a great opportunity for all the customers across the region to get very competitively priced energy,” said Andrew.
“This deal has the potential to result in more wind energy at half the cost of off-shore and can be used up to 5 years faster,” said Andrew.
The on-shore contracts can have wind energy delivered to the state by 2009 or 2010, said Stockbridge, years ahead of the anticipated 2014 date the Bluewater project would be online.
Delmarva Power first announced it was seeking bids from on-shore wind suppliers earlier this year after four state agencies voted to table a proposed contract between Delmarva Power and Bluewater Wind.
Delmarva Power has maintained Bluewater’s off-shore wind farm would put too high a cost burden on its ratepayers, saying buying on-shore wind is the best and cheapest way to supply its customers with the renewable energy source. But University of Delaware professor Jeremy Firestone said comparing on-shore wind power generation to off-shore is an apples-to-oranges comparison.
Still, Andrew said for the Co-op this deal has nothing to do with Bluewater Wind’s proposed 150-turbine offshore wind park. “The best part of this deal is the deal itself. The pricing is very competitive with all the energy we buy on the market,” Andrew said.
“Don’t read too much into this. We’re doing this for no reason other than cost. We seek to provide the cheapest rates for our customers, so if you can bring us power at below-market rates, we’re going to want to buy it,” said Rob Book, Co-op spokesman.
The co-op has not finalized the amount of electricity it will be buying from any of the on-shore sources that have submitted bids to Delmarva Power.
“This seems like much ado about nothing,” said Firestone, who has been actively involved in the Delmarva Power-Bluewater Wind issue. Until the prices of the bids are released, it is difficult to predict the effects of the deal, he said.
It will be good if more Delaware utilities are buying wind power, but purchasing out-of-state power won’t help the state lower prices by getting out of its generating deficit, he said. Only in-state generation can do that, said Firestone.
Delmarva Power maintains the best way to provide its customers with affordable, clean, renewable wind energy is to purchase it from on-shore sources. There are none in Delaware.
In its press release, Delmarva Power added that the on-shore contracts are also free of the 2.5 percent price escalator that is in Bluewater’s contract, further reducing the cost of on-shore versus off-shore. “Our customers would have to pay Bluewater $5.6 billion over the term of the 25-year contract. Without the 2.5 percent escalator, they would pay $2.2 billion less,” said Stockbridge.
Bluewater says that 2.5 percent is there to cover the costs of its workers wages, insurance and benefits increasing over 25 years. “What Delmarva Power is referring to is a 2.5 percent inflation factor, not an escalator. It is the same inflation factor Delmarva Power cites in their integrated resource plan, the same amount they say prices will likely go up,” said Jim Lanard, Bluewater spokesman.
The deal demonstrates the commitment by the state’s largest electric utilities, which, combined, provide the state with 90 percent of its electricity, to bring renewable energy to Delaware customers, said Andrew.
State environmentalists remain skeptical of on-shore wind.
“Importing land-based wind energy from out-of-state puts us at the mercy of out-of-state power producers. Importing wind energy does not provide health and environmental benefits to the citizens of Delaware,” said Nicholas DiPasquale, conservation chair for Delaware Audubon.
Green Delaware’s Alan Muller said, “If land-based wind power actually was available to consumers at fifty percent less than the Bluewater Wind price, it [ ] would be substantially cheaper than the existing ‘market’ price, which we know it isn’t…and won’t be.”
Stockbridge said it would take Delmarva Power and the Delaware Electric Co-op about a month to evaluate the bids they receive for on-shore wind power. From there, each utility will select the bids which best suit its customers’ specific needs. Stockbridge said he expects to present the bids to the Delaware Public Service Commission for approval in June.
Bluewater Wind to study avian effects of wind turbines
On a research vessel named after environmentalist and former Delaware Gov. Russell W. Peterson, Bluewater Wind will study the effects of its proposed off-shore wind farm on birds.
The vessel will be christened at noon, Saturday, March 29 at the Port of Wilmington. Peterson, former National Audubon Society president, was behind the Coastal Zone Act of 1972, which kept heavy industry off Delaware’s coastlines. He will attend the ceremony christening the ship in his honor.
Bluewater plans on conducting 75 days of avian studies off the Research Vessel Russell W. Peterson.
Bluewater is hosting a reception at the Christina Ballroom of the Chase Center on the Riverfront at 12:45 p.m. following the christening.
By Leah Hoenen
28 March 2008
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