A “secret” memorandum of understanding.
A loss of natural space.
Impacts to health, quality of life and ocean views.
Those were just a few of the concerns raised by a rowdy crowd of more than 200 people Tuesday night during discussions of a potential partnership between Delaware and an offshore wind company.
“If these wind farms are constructed as proposed, the view off our shoreline to our horizon will be changed forever,” said Ocean City Mayor Richard Meehan. “The sunrise that you get up and look at in the morning … will never be the same. It looks like Star Wars.”
Last month, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced that it was negotiating what was called a “win-win” agreement between state parks officials and Ørsted, a Denmark-based company that plans to build the Skipjack Wind Farm less than 20 miles off the Delmarva coast.
That partnership would allow Ørsted to build a connection facility on up to 1.5 acres along the bayside of Fenwick Island State Park in exchange for upwards of $18 million in park upgrades and amenities, including a pedestrian bridge over Coastal Highway, an amphitheater and bathhouses.
The agreement would call for Ørsted to drill cables under the beach, dunes and Coastal Highway to connect power generated from the proposed 12-megawatt wind mills to the existing power grid.
But the MOU signed between the two parties in the summer has turned heads in Fenwick Island and beyond, with some residents wondering why it took so long for that partnership to become public knowledge and why Delaware officials would sacrifice public lands to a private company.
People applauded the idea to connect at the more “commercialized” state park along Indian River or somewhere in Maryland, repeating that the project will benefit Maryland, not Delaware.
The few bright yellow signs that read “wind power now” seemed small compared to the shouting voices of those who thought Delawareans were getting short-handed through the potential partnership, losing pristine park land in favor of built amenities.
While the electricity will feed into the grid at Fenwick Island and provide power to people in places like Fenwick Island and nearby Delaware towns, Maryland will get the renewable energy credits for the project, a point of contention for many in the crowd.
“I’d like to believe all you guys because I believe in wind power, but the way the MOU was signed secretly … I don’t trust that all the things that you say you will do, that you will do,” said Mohammad Akhter. “I want transparency.”
While critical voices largely dominated Tuesday’s meeting, there were a few who supported the idea that Delaware – even though it wouldn’t benefit from the project on paper – would play a role in offshore wind development.
“We all want the same thing,” said Janet Redman of Rehoboth Beach. “We want clean air. We want clean water. We want our children to be healthy. We want our grandchildren to be healthy. Anything we do to clean up the environment benefits everybody. Pollution doesn’t stop at the state line.”
But those who supported the project, or pointed to the success of the Block Island offshore wind project in Rhode Island were met with loud “boos” and shouts of “no.”
Ørsted and DNREC officials were largely on the defensive during the nearly two-hour-long meeting, pointing to how the federal government has the final say in whether Skipjack itself can be built. Joy Weber with Ørsted said the company looked at multiple locations along the coasts of Maryland and Delaware before selecting a potential connection at Fenwick Island State Park.
If the proposed partnership falls through, Ørsted will have to start over in finding a place to connect to the grid, she said.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding