Delaware is once again pushing to have wind turbines built off its shores, reviving a debate that had gone quiet for several years.
Gov. John Carney says he will sign an executive order Monday to create a “working group” tasked with studying the issue and recommending steps the First State can take to get an offshore wind project underway.
Carney spokesman Jonathan Starkey said the governor wants to examine the potential economic benefits of such a development in general and has no specific project in mind.
“Governor Carney has long supported offshore wind and investments in clean energy to create jobs, reduce the impact of climate change and protect our environment,” he said. “The working group will help Delaware explore the potential environmental and economic benefits of offshore wind development.”
Delaware once was on the forefront of creating the nation’s first offshore wind farm.
The technology was a hot topic more than a decade ago when Bluewater Wind proposed placing 150 turbines in the ocean about 13 miles east of Rehoboth Beach. The utility-scale, carbon-free energy source was expected to produce 200 megawatts, or enough electricity to power about 54,000 homes.
In anticipation of that project, residents successfully demanded that Delmarva Power become the first utility in the country to sign a contract to buy offshore wind power.
Bluewater Wind, which later was acquired by NRG Energy, even won the first-ever lease for such a project from the U.S. Interior Department.
But the approval came too late.
NRG Energy terminated its power-purchase contract with Delmarva Power in late 2011 after struggling to secure financing or federal loan guarantees.
A company spokesman said Friday that NRG has since sold its federal lease to Garden State Offshore Energy, a partnership between Deepwater Wind and PSE&G currently pursuing a wind farm off New Jersey’s coast.
Delaware lost its chance to pioneer the offshore wind industry in the United States in December when Deepwater Wind began operating the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island. Several other states are now pursuing offshore wind farms.
After creating a ratepayer subsidy in 2013, Maryland recently took a major step toward becoming home to the nation’s two largest offshore wind farms, both planned in the waters off Ocean City. U.S. Wind, a subsidiary of an Italian construction firm, is planning to build 62 turbines 17 miles off the coast, while Skipjack Offshore Energy is looking to add another 15.
The Maryland Public Service Commission has estimated the two projects could generate more than $1.8 billion of in-state spending and create 9,700 direct and indirect jobs.
But that has not stopped Ocean City officials from resisting the projects over concerns about their potential impact on tourism and property values.
Rehoboth Beach Mayor-elect Paul Kuhns, who will be sworn in on Sept. 15, said he personally supports the state’s exploration of wind power just outside the popular resort town.
“Unless it’s right off the beach, I don’t see it as hurting tourism,” he said. “I could see charter boats taking people for a closer look. And I just think renewable energy is the right way to go.”
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