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Bluewater Wind granted lease for offshore wind project

U.S. Sens. Tom Carper, Chris Coons and U.S. Rep. John Carney (all D-Del.) hailed this week’s announcement by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar that Bluewater Wind will receive a lease for an offshore wind project on the Outer Continental Shelf off the shores of Southern Delaware.

This is the first offshore wind project to be awarded a lease under the “Smart from the Start” wind-energy initiative for the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. The announcement came after an August 2012 vote by the Senate Finance Committee that extends tax credits to incentivize investments in offshore wind projects.

“Today’s announcement means we are one step closer to making offshore wind a reality in Delaware,” said Carper, a member of the Senate Finance Committee. “I am hopeful that, with this lease and with recent actions in Congress, we can find investors that will be willing to partner with Delaware to pursue this promising source of offshore wind energy.

“Offshore wind is an untapped energy resource that will help us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, curb harmful air pollutants and create good paying American jobs. I commend Secretary Salazar and the administration for their commitment to renewable energy.”

“Delawareans know that wind off our shores can contribute to an all-of-the-above energy strategy,” Coons said. “Today’s announcement by the Department of the Interior marks a smart, common-sense step toward that strategy.”

“This lease is an important step in bringing together partners to move the offshore wind project forward,” said Carney. “I’ve been a strong supporter at both the state and federal levels for making investments in renewable, green technology that protect the environment and create jobs for Delaware workers. The area off of Delaware’s coastline is an ideal spot for an offshore wind project, and I’m hopeful that this lease will incentivize investors and other partners to bring this project to light.”

In December 2011, NRG Energy announced that it was suspending active development of offshore wind projects, citing the fact that Bluewater Wind – lead developer of the Mid-Atlantic Wind Park (MAWP) off the coast of Delaware and an NRG subsidiary – had been unable to find an investment partner.

Since acquiring Bluewater Wind in November of 2009, NRG has made financial investments to move the wind park forward. In December 2011, they emphasized that, at the time of the acquisition, the outlook for offshore wind had been positive but things had changed in the two years since, including Congress eliminating funding for the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program and the failure to extend Federal Investment and Production Tax Credits for offshore wind.

David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy, last December thanked state officials, “who have provided strong and unwavering support for the project,” as well as DPL staff “and the local communities and general public of Delaware, who enthusiastically embraced the project and the idea of emission-free power.”

This week, NRG spokesperson David Gaier added that signing this commercial lease was an important step.

“As we said last December, when NRG made the decision to ramp down active offshore development, we will continue to preserve important assets of our offshore wind development program until the market should recover,” said Gaier this week. “Signing this commercial lease is one of those important steps in preserving our valuable offshore wind development assets.”

He added that NRG would continue to work with the State and continue to seek partners for the MAWP with a number of strategic and financial investors. “[That] was always a central part of our plan when we acquired Bluewater Wind,” he said. “This commercial lease makes the asset more valuable and appealing to partners and investors.”

“We appreciate the continued leadership and support of Gov. Markell, Sens. Carper and Coons, and Rep. Carney, and look forward to working with them to advance the prospects for offshore wind and other renewable projects in Delaware,” he added.