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Bluewater wind ‘cautiously optimistic’ about ongoing negotiations

Negotiations on a stalled bid for offshore wind power in Delaware have resumed in Dover. The talks could result in an offshore wind farm off Rehoboth Beach selling power to Delmarva Power and a regional municipal electricity corporation.

A vote on a proposed contract between Delmarva Power and Bluewater Wind was tabled in December, but efforts to reach agreement on a contract have recently regained strength.

“We are making a lot of progress through the leadership of Lt. Gov. John Carney and the Senate majority leader,” said Bluewater Wind spokesman Jim Lanard.

Lanard said Bluewater Wind is cautiously optimistic concerns about the contract will be resolved sometime this week.

The first step in resolving the issue will be to reach a point where the controller general sees an outcome he wants to support, Lanard said.

Lanard said part of the solution might be changing the framework of the deal. He said parties were considering Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation (DMEC) purchasing more power from the project while Delmarva Power would purchase less than originally planned, reducing the contract for Delmarva Power.

The project size could thus remain the same with the potential for other purchasers down the road, Lanard said.

Delmarva Power and Bluewater Wind have been talking, along with the DMEC. DMEC negotiated a contract with Bluewater Wind in May to buy between $200 million and $300 million over a 20-year contract if the offshore wind farm is built.

DMEC customers include Newark, New Castle, Middletown, Dover, Smyrna, Seaford, Lewes, Clayton and Milford.

Carney, a Democrat running for governor, said he has been a longtime supporter of the Bluewater project, so he has pushed Senate leadership to seal the deal.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Markell said he was disappointed it had taken so long to reach this point in the process. He pledged that, if he becomes governor, he would make the state a player in the wind-energy equation.

The state should negotiate to buy a significant portion of the energy used by the state from offshore wind, Markell said.

That concept was suggested earlier this year by Rep. Joe Booth, R-Georgetown, who in April sponsored an amendment to House Concurrent Resolution 38, which called for the controller general to vote in favor of the project.

The amendment said the state should purchase power from the offshore wind project along with standard offer service customers and small businesses.

The December vote was tabled because the controller general had concerns over the cost to consumers of the project. Delmarva Power has maintained that the Bluewater Wind project would unfairly raise rates to its standard-offer service customers. The power company has kept up an advertising campaign encouraging electric users to call their representatives and voice their opinions against the project.

Delmarva Power spokeswoman Bridget Shelton said she was not at liberty to comment on the negotiations.

Carney has previously worked with Bluewater Wind, securing a commitment from that company that if the Delaware contract is approved, the state will become the economic hub of its regional activity.

Carney also announced Bluewater Wind would be willing to work with Delaware Technical & Community College to set up wind turbine mechanics classes.

By Leah Hoenen

Cape Gazette

16 June 2008