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Delmarva gives wind developer extension

Delmarva Power has granted NRG Bluewater Wind another contract extension, giving the offshore wind developer until the end of the year to put money down or walk away from its planned wind farm.

The offshore wind project has faced problems getting financing after a federal loan guarantee program the company sought was significantly scaled back earlier this year.

Bluewater’s plans are to install anywhere from 49 large turbines to 150 smaller ones about 13 miles off the Delaware coast. The turbines would power the equivalent of about 54,000 homes.

Bluewater has a contract with Delmarva for up to 200 megawatts of power from the project. It was the first major utility contract for offshore wind power in the country.

By June 23, under its contract, the developer needed to pay Delmarva $4 million or walk away from the contract. Bluewater would get the money back when the project is built.

Delmarva granted Bluewater a three-month extension this summer, giving the firm until next week to pay $2.75 million and January 2013 to pay $1.25 million.

Under the extension agreed to this week, Bluewater will have until Dec. 31 to pay the entire $4 million.

“NRG Bluewater Wind appreciates the extension. We’re continuing to seek financing and equity investors for the project,” said NRG spokesman David Gaier.

Bluewater also is working with the federal government for a lease on particular ocean tracts, which it expects to have by the end of the year.

Delmarva spokeswoman Bridget Shelton said observers shouldn’t read anything into the way the extension is structured.

“This is just another extension,” she said. “NRG feels confident that it will have the funding that it needs to proceed by the end of the year, and we’re going to take their word for it.”

Meanwhile, Delaware’s congressional delegation and Gov. Jack Markell have written a letter to President Barack Obama asking that Bluewater be identified as a high-priority infrastructure project. This would expedite its federal permit reviews.

Obama last month asked each federal agency secretary to identify three such projects, with the intention of speeding job growth.