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Wind farm power lines may run beneath the ground

BETHANY BEACH – Representatives from NRG Bluewater Wind met with town officials Friday to discuss plans to bring wind power to the town.

According to Mayor Tony McClenny, NRG wants to bring power lines from its proposed wind farm ashore through transmission lines, which will run underground. NRG officials said Bethany is the company’s preferred location.

Bluewater is planning a 293-megawatt project of 60 to 100 turbines 13 miles off the coast of the Delaware Seashore State Park in Rehoboth Beach.

“The (main) purpose of this meeting is for the Town Council to gain full understanding of what NRG is proposing and to learn how it will affect our community,” McClenny said.

NRG Founder/President Peter Mandelstam presented preliminary plans for routing cables through Bethany. He described how the cables will be about 6 feet under the sea floor, 15 feet under the beach.

“We’re going to directionally drill under the beach and pull the cable through a conduit so there’s no impact to (the) beach,” he said. “We want to make sure, again, that we never cut into the beach or into the zone just offshore.”

The cable will run through conduits about 4 feet under Wellington Parkway and Kent Avenue – the total route of construction is about 1.4 miles, Mandelstam said.

“We tried to pick the easiest route,” he said. “At the end of the day, all you’ll see is manhole covers 15 feet apart.”

The project wouldn’t begin until 2013 in the offseason and would be completed in about eight to 10 weeks, he said.

There were other possible locations for bringing the cable ashore, Mandelstam said, but Middlesex Beach officials decided they did not want the cables and the state park would’ve been too expensive.

“Any dollar increase in construction costs hurts the ability to finance the project,” he said. “It’s good for you and good for us to find the most economically efficient (way).”

Jim Seternus, a representative for Sargent and Lundy, said a similar project was done in New England, where cables were brought on shore through towns more historic and more congested than Bethany. He said the project turned out very well.

Resident Richard Sarver raised the question of dangers of the cables and the electromagnetic fields.

“I’m not happy at all to hear to hear this idea of coming ashore on my street,” he said. “I have children that play right on that street (and sleep) 20 to 25 feet from where this cable is going to be.”

Mandelstam said risks usually were associated with overhead hanging and that in this case, the cables will be underground. He said residents would be informed of any potential dangers at upcoming hearing.

“It’s really not an underground issue,” Seternus said.