Wow! The Cape Gazette is certainly hearing from progressives in Sussex County who want to question my motives in publicizing an alternative view on offshore wind projects.
As stated before, our intent here is that property owners and citizens in Sussex County know about development plans that will potentially impact their property values and livelihoods.
At the beginning we were only getting information from the state parks division and the project developer, Orsted. We heard how Orsted would pay about $18 million to the parks division for park improvements in exchange for bringing one electric transmission cable ashore to a one-acre electric transmission substation at Fenwick Island State Park.
The wind turbines would be about 17 miles away, and would be barely visible, and would help save the planet by producing carbon dioxide-free electric generation.
By law, the state needed to open the record for 30 days of public comment ending over the long Thanksgiving holiday.
The Fenwick Island Town Council and concerned Fenwick Island homeowners began asking questions about environmental, geologic and economic impacts, but got no answers. Officials in Ocean City, Md., provide visualizations of how the turbines would look off the beach, and they would clearly be visible. The state park comment page turned out to be a survey form of what improvements were preferred at the park. From earlier research I knew some of the answers, and jumped in with the rest of the story.
We now know Orsted and the state had been working on this for some time, and had signed a confidential interim agreement in July that involved two cables and two substations to cover Orsted when they filled out the lease area with turbines potentially as close as 13 miles near Rehoboth Beach.
The state agency began informing legislators in September, and asked they say nothing until the parks division made the information public.
This is the kind of action the state takes when they want to limit comments and objections. Projects like this in other states have been very controversial, with one project brought to a halt.
A fair question to ask is will the parks division allow a second, even bigger, wind project off Ocean City also to come ashore at Fenwick Island State Park. If so, we could wind up with multiple cables, and up to eight acres of substations, and a major overland transmission line. Various studies show potential large impacts on tourism. The studies may or may not be correct, but point out the risk to a $5 billion a year industry.
Federal agencies, such as the Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fisheries Service have pointed out potential problems with the location of the lease areas and transmission cables. A local group has pointed out the lease areas sit atop the horseshoe crab winter hibernation reserve.
Given the planned use of dramatically taller turbines, the Maryland Public Service Commission is taking public comment on reopening the docket that approved $3.9 billion in federal and state subsidies for a $2.1 billion wind turbine construction project. During the approval process, the PSC consultant pointed out these offshore projects were merely displacing onshore wind projects that could be built at a quarter of the cost, and save the same amount of carbon dioxide emissions.
This debate is not about renewable energy, rather what is the best way to achieve it.
Nationally, the secretary of the U. S. Interior Department has ordered the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that issued the lease areas to go back and answer many of the same questions we are asking locally.
The Caesar Rodney Institute has done its job informing the public. The state comment period has been extended a second time to Jan. 15 at www.destateparks.com/fenwickimprovements. It’s time for supporters and opponents to make their views known.
The view of a standing-room-only crowd at the Indian River High School was certainly passionately opposed. An unscientific survey we did in a mailing is not complete as returns are still coming in, but currently show about 80 percent opposed to the Fenwick Island State Park projects, and to visible wind turbines off the coast.
Progressives are welcome to continue attacking me, but it appears you are also attacking the majority of the people in the beach community, along with federal and state agencies who are asking the same questions.
David T. Stevenson
director, Center for Energy & Environment
Caesar Rodney Institute
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