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Locals call on state leaders to hold off on wind farm and interconnection facility

FENWICK ISLAND, DE – Up to $18 million dollars in additions to Fenwick Island State Park could be on the way.

But this all depends on whether or not energy company Orsted is approved to build an offshore wind project off of Maryland and Delaware’s coastline.

If it is approved, Orsted says the “Skipjack Wind Farm will be sited at least 19 miles from the Maryland-Delaware line and 26 miles from the Ocean City pier. It will generate enough clean energy to power 35,000 homes, create nearly 1,500 jobs, and significantly reduce carbon emissions on the eastern shore.”

It is only a proposed project at this time, and state and local grants would still need to be approved before construction begins. But if the wind farm is approved, Orsted plans to construct an interconnection facility on Fenwick Island State Park’s bay side area, with wind turbines in the ocean.

This facility will connect power generated by the wind farm to the electrical grid on the park’s site.

In exchange for building the wind farm, Orsted says it will fund up to $18 million dollars worth of additions to the park. This includes, a parking garage, pedestrian overpass and more.

According to Joy Weber, Development Manager for Orsted’s Skip Jack Wind Farm, “In our view, Fenwick Island State Park is not only the ideal location for interconnection, but also presents an exciting new model that would both improve a popular state park and advance renewable energy in the region.”

But people like David T. Stevenson, Director of the Center for Energy Competitiveness says the wind farm will only hurt tourism, and he sent a letter to Governor Carney and other state leaders this week to take action.

In the letter, Stevenson says:

Not only will our views be lost, but our economy will suffer. A number of surveys , including one from the University of Delaware, indicate perhaps 15 to 35 percent of tourists will stop coming as the view degenerates. The Delaware Tourism Office reported in 2016, tourism contributed $3 billion to Delaware’s gross domestic product, sustained over 41,000 direct jobs, and generated $470 million in taxes and fees for state and local government. Beach rentals alone contributed $1 billion. Reduced tourism could cost several hundred million dollars a year easily overwhelming the one time offer to contribute $18 million for improvements at the Fenwick Island State Park for landing a power cable there.

But Orsted disagrees, saying in a statement to WBOC, “We are committed to a constructive dialogue with local communities to ensure the Skipjack Wind Farm is a project the Delmarva Peninsula can be proud of.”

Earlier this summer, DNREC signed a memorandum of understanding with Orsted to have a detailed discussion on a potential public-private partnership.

No leasing agreement has been signed at this time, and Stevenson is urging political leaders in his letter to “take the time, and delay signing any agreement on transmission cable location until the resort towns have thoroughly reviewed the impact of the turbines through public outreach similar to the serious debate that resulted in resolutions opposing offshore oil well drilling. Please slow this project down,” the letter said.

State leaders tell us this proposal is still in its initial phases, and there are many permits that will still need to be approved.

State parks held a public workshop earlier this month and is still accepting public comment.