Maryland has opened energy supply talks with a Delaware offshore wind developer, hoping to tap into green energy from an expanded wind farm off Rehoboth Beach.
State Energy Administration officials in Maryland said Wednesday that options now under review include using Bluewater’s proposed turbine complex to power all of Maryland’s state and county buildings, and possibly drawing energy from a second wind farm that could be built off Ocean City.
Energy policy director William Brandon Farris confirmed broad details of the talks Wednesday, after reports circulated that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley supported the Delaware offshore wind venture and was open to working with the company on Maryland’s needs.
“We’re having discussions with Bluewater Wind,” Farris said. “We are looking at all aspects. We fully support the Bluewater Wind proposal and would like to be involved in some way.”
O’Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec said Maryland’s governor outlined his views on offshore wind and Bluewater’s agreement Friday during a National Governors Association event.
“He believes that it’s a far more progressive way and a far more results-oriented way of looking at the energy crisis than lifting a ban on offshore drilling,” Adamec said.
Bluewater and Delmarva Power announced an agreement last month on a 25-year utility contract for up to 200 megawatts of offshore wind-generated electricity, after nearly two years of wrangling that cut the size and cost of the project by more than 50 percent. Experts agree that Bluewater’s project would be more financially viable with additional commitments to the project.
Company officials originally proposed 200 turbines across a 30-square-mile offshore tract, then downsized the plan to about 60 turbines. But even as the Delmarva contract was announced, Bluewater said it would be eager to add turbines back to the same site.
While federal officials still must approve an ocean bed lease for construction, the number of turbines is limited mainly by physical spacing requirements, maintenance needs and the tendency of turbines to block wind to neighboring towers when packed too tightly.
“The [wind] asset’s out there. All we have to do is use it,” said Joan Deaver, president of Citizens for a Better Sussex. “It’s good to be first, but we should have had more. We’re not taking advantage of what we have.”
The $800 million project off Rehoboth Beach could become the nation’s first offshore wind farm, with generation slated to start as early as 2012.
But the recent wind deal in Delaware has charged up already brisk talks on a larger offshore wind experiment in New Jersey, where officials are scheduled to pick one or more 350-megawatt wind proposals as early as Aug. 20. Five bidders are in the running in the Garden State, including Bluewater, PSEG, Fishermen’s Energy and a New York City group.
New Jersey also is considering a doubling or tripling of its offshore wind power goal for 2020 – boosting the target from 1,000 megawatts to as much as 3,000 megawatts – as part of that state’s long-term energy plan. A final public hearing on that issue is scheduled for today.
“Bluewater wind certainly welcomes consideration of that recommendation” to increase New Jersey’s wind-power goals, company spokesman Jim Lanard said. “We’re eager to learn more.”
“Everybody has realized that there’s much more interest in building many more windmills,” said Jeff Tittel, who directs the Sierra Club in New Jersey. “We have a pilot project for 350 megawatts and we have five companies competing for it.”
Because wind speeds vary, initial estimates are that Delmarva would get a year-round average of about 64 megawatts from a 200-megawatt wind farm, enough to meet the needs of 15,000 to 19,000 households, or up to 5 percent of Delaware’s total households.
Bluewater representatives briefed Ocean City, Md., officials this week on possibilities for a second farm off their beaches.
“What we said to the Ocean City town council members was, our first choice is to double the size of the Delaware project, get all of the new, additional nameplate capacity into Maryland for sale there, and a second park could be developed [off Ocean City] if there was sufficient interest,” Lanard said.
Ocean City Councilman James M. Hall described Bluewater’s presentation as “just a concept.”
“This is in its infancy. At first blush, I would say: Build it in Delaware, let us look at it, let us see how it looks and what kind of problems you have first,” Hall said.
Neither of Bluewater’s talks in Maryland and New Jersey currently involve forced contracts or costly, regulator-driven deals of the type used in Delaware to produce the Delmarva contract.
The company has assured Delaware that Delmarva’s ratepayers would receive similar consideration if projects in neighboring states call for better terms than Delmarva’s.
Lanard cautioned that new energy projects need long-term purchase agreements to move ahead. Maryland’s needs could be “quite significant,” if they become part of a long-term purchase deal, Lanard said, but state officials are still developing estimates and options.
“We’re very encouraged with the work they’re doing,” Lanard said.
By Jeff Montgomery
17 July 2008
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