In a rare display of expediency, Delaware officials enacted a new law in a matter of hours to clear the way for the establishment of what may be the first offshore wind farm in the nation.
Senate Bill 328 passed both chambers of the General Assembly on June 25 and was quickly signed into law.
“One of the benefits of the system we have in Delaware is the ability to move quickly for the right purposes,” said State Rep. Robert Valihura (R-Delaware North).
The enactment of the measure was needed to facilitate the recently-announced contract between Delmarva Power and Blue Water Wind. Under the “purchase power agreement,” Delmarva will buy up to 200 megawatts of electricity from the wind farm, which will be located 11 to 14 miles off the Sussex County coast.
Although first proposed at 150 turbines, the initial wind farm project will be in the range of 55-70 turbines. Jim Lanard, head of strategic planning and communications for Blue Water Wind, said the project has the potential to be as big as originally planned, depending on how successful his company is at recruiting additional customers over the next two years.
“We’re going to look in New Jersey, we’re going to look in Maryland and we’re going to look at other big [electricity] users in Delaware,” Mr. Lanard said. “We’re hopeful that with this green economy … that people and some of the industrials will want to buy some of our power.”
The new law gives Delmarva Power extra credit for the “renewable energy credits” it’s purchasing under the contract, helping the company meet its renewable energy mandate under state law. However, Blue Water Wind (BWW) will actually retain control over the majority of these credits, which will be sold on the open market. That provision was key for BWW because the company needed the additional source of revenue to make the smaller wind project financially viable.
The measure also allows Delmarva Power to spread both the costs and benefits of the offshore wind power contracts to their entire customer base, instead of just their residential and small business customers, as had been stipulated in an earlier law.
Lanard said BWW plans to start delivering electricity in 2012. The wind turbines will be brought on-line in sets of 15. Energizing the entire wind farm will take about a year.
The General Assembly began the process that led to the Blue Water Wind-Delmarva Power deal more than two years ago with the passage of House Bill 6. That legislation, sponsored by Rep. Valihura, sought to stabilize electricity rates for Delmarva Power’s residential and small business customers by calling for the utility enter into a long-term contract to buy electricity from an in-state power generator.
Rep. Valihura says that while the process has had its twists, turns and setbacks, the final destination was worth the bumpy ride. “This is going to put Delaware in the forefront of alternative power generation in this country and is going to send a message to our sister states along the coast that the time has come … to begin implementing off-shore wind projects.”
The Blue Water Wind project must still go through an extensive state and federal permitting process before construction can start. Delaware’s Congressional delegation recently sent a letter to federal officials asking that they expedite their work to finalize regulations for the building and placement of off-shore wind turbines.
By Joe Fulgham
Delaware General Assembly
2 July 2008