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Time ticking on offshore wind farm; Deadline nears for NRG to find Bluewater buyer

The clock is running down on Bluewater Wind’s search for a buyer.

NRG Energy, the offshore wind developer’s owner, has until Tuesday to find a buyer for Bluewater.

That’s the deadline for the company to forfeit a $4 million security deposit to Delmarva Power or terminate its 25-year contract for offshore wind power.

NRG reported two weeks ago its intention to terminate the contract if a buyer does not come forward because of problems gaining financing for the project, with long-term government subsidies uncertain.

NRG originally reported the deadline was Dec. 23, but last week NRG spokesman David Gaier said Delmarva clarified that the deadline for giving notice of termination was Dec. 27.

“NRG continues its discussions with potential buyers and investors,” Gaier said Wednesday, the last update the company provided.

Bluewater has been planning to build between 49 large turbines and 150 smaller ones 13 miles off the coast of Delaware.

The power purchase agreement, for up to 200 megawatts of power at any given time, was signed in summer 2008.

The contract had Delaware officials dreaming of being the center of an offshore wind industry, including turbine suppliers. Even Rep. John Carney, D-Del., who was then between government roles, participated in a company that proposed building steel towers for the Bluewater project’s turbines.

“We certainly would hope they would find a buyer,” said Gene Bailey, executive director of the Port of Wilmington, which could gain a turbine assembly facility if the wind project is built.

Bluewater had pledged to make Delaware the hub of its mid-Atlantic operations if the Delmarva deal was signed.

“It would be good for the state if we could move this project forward, but we fully understand the difficulty they’re going through,” Bailey said Sunday night.

Alan Levin, the state economic development director, said Bluewater represents “a lot of missed opportunities,” from jobs to technological advances and energy independence.

Levin said a lot of people worked hard to create the wind farm, which he called a “proven technology.”

But the federal government didn’t make a concerted enough effort to support offshore wind, he said.

“If they wanted to have made this happen, they could have made this happen,” Levin said.

NRG has reported that if a buyer is not found, it would eliminate the six Bluewater jobs, including President Peter Mandelstam.

But, though dormant, it would remain NRG’s offshore wind division. Company officials said they could pursue offshore wind again in the future if market conditions improve, although they would no longer have the contract.

If awarded a lease by the federal Interior Department, NRG would hold on to it as an asset, to use or sell at a later date, company officials said.

Bluewater would get the $4 million security deposit back, plus the $2 million it has already given, if the wind farm is built.