The University of Delaware is moving forward with plans to develop a field to test wind turbines in shallow water off the Delaware coast.
School officials have ruled out locations in Delaware Bay on environmental grounds – namely that the area is an important migration route for shorebirds and waterfowl, said Jeremy M. Firestone, associate professor of marine policy and associate professor of legal studies at the College of Earth, Ocean and the Environment.
Of special concern, he said, is the migration path between the Delaware and New Jersey sides of Delaware Bay. Each fall, teams of volunteers monitor bird migrations at Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch in Lewes and have counted thousands of birds. This season, they counted 32,267 birds, nearly double the previous year total for the fall migration.
Many travel across the entrance to the bay from Cape May, where they also have been counted by teams at the Cape May Hawk Watch at Cape May Point in New Jersey.
“We aren’t looking at any site in Delaware Bay,” Firestone said.
Earlier this year, university officials met with state environmental regulators to discuss the proposed offshore wind turbine test facility. They suggested various locations, including one just off Beach Plum Island and another further offshore between the Lewes Beach shoreline and the Delaware Bay navigation channel. They proposed five sites along the Atlantic Ocean coast – all just off the beach from Gordons Pond south to Rehoboth Beach.
Firestone said they continue to look at potential locations in the Atlantic – some in state waters within three miles of land, others within federal jurisdiction. The advantage of ocean locations is that they are closer to power transmission lines, he said.
State environmental officials said they haven’t heard back from university representatives on the proposal since they met in February. State permits would likely be required before any project could proceed.
University officials met with the Army Corps of Engineers in September to discuss the proposal and suggested they would like to place eight towers at a test site. Two towers would be used to gather data on weather, and the others would be used to test wind turbine equipment.
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