At last Friday’s Bethany Beach Town Council meeting, local officials and 12 residents asked the age-old question “What’s in it for me?”
While wind-energy projects offshore of Ocean City, Md. – including the U.S. Wind MarWin project – are now in final federal review to power 80,000 homes in Maryland, it’s the Bethany Beach area in Delaware that will carry the electrical load for its neighbor.
According to BOEM testimony and a presentation requested by Bethany Beach Mayor Rosemary Hardiman, U.S. Wind plans to connect to the NRG power substation at Dagsboro via the Indian River Inlet. Onshoring of four massive power cables is proposed to take place at 3R’s Beach or at Tower Road Beach, onshoring the wind power from the first 22 turbines.
The offshore wind projects are expected to deliver 2,700 jobs to the region, primarily in Maryland. Momentum Wind, a second and larger wind farm, will require additional infrastructure and build-out of the electric grid in Delaware and Maryland.
Having heard the question of what’s in it for Delaware residents, the answer from Mike Dunmyer, Delaware development manager for U.S. Wind, is that Bethany and Southern Delaware will gain infrastructure benefits to the electrical grid with enhancement to handle the new power resources, additional power availability to new community development, careers in a high-tech wind power field and targeted charitable giving by the wind-power companies.
“What’s in it for Delaware?” said Dunmyer. “First, by connecting to the grid in Sussex County, the energy we produce would be available to Delaware. We will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to strengthen the [power] grid here.”
“You also get the important jobs” in wind power transmission and the supply chain business “will be a win” for the Bethany region, he said, adding that the area can thrive as a community, “because offshore wind is nearby, with job training opportunity.”
“U.S. Wind will be here for 35 to 40 years or more,” stated Dunmyer at the council meeting. “We will look to support charitable and non-profit organizations that are doing important work in the community.” The U.S. Wind Delaware manager cited the $100,000 gift already provided to the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays and its educational center at James Farm.
From the larger viewpoint, engaging with wind-power transmission infrastructure may help reduce carbon emissions and ozone-depleting CO2 emissions from the existing coal-fired power plant here.
“I have a home in Lewes,” said Dunmyer, “I have a home in Dewey. Coastal flooding is not just from the storms; but it happens from tidal surge and nuisance floods” in Bethany and the region.
“If approved, this project will represent another step forward in creating a robust offshore wind industry here in the United States, all while creating good-paying, family-supporting jobs,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “We are committed to using the best available science and traditional knowledge to inform our decisions and protect the ocean environment.”
Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan has been voluble in his disagreement with the MarWin project, especially concerning the viewshed and the sightlines of wind turbine blades impacting tourism. He publicly called out the short turnaround time between BOEM’s acceptance of U.S. Wind’s Construction & Operations Plans and the public hearings on “scoping” the project held in July.
“We think we will use 817-foot turbines,” said Dunmyer, “938 feet above the main water line,” when the wind-farm base is considered.
“We identified two landing spots,” said Dunmyer. “3R’s Beach is our preferred landing spot. Tower Road Beach is south of Dewey” and would be the backup. The electrical substation is Indian River NRG power plant.”
“We would be tunneling and sending cables under the inlet and bay bottom. This is the least disruptive route, from an ecosystem perspective and a human systems perspective,” said the U.S. Wind representative. “If we went under the Indian River and bay, we would go from 1,000 feet offshore. There would be four cable vaults under the 3R’s Beach parking lot.” All visitors and residents would see is the manhole covers in the parking area.
The cable laying process would continue under the Indian River and bay wetlands.
“We would use horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to get to the substation,” said Dunmyer. This drilling and cable installation “can only take place outside of tourist season dates of May 15 and Sept. 15.
Dunmyer predicted, “It will take two off-seasons, in 2024 and 2025. There are a few potential routes along rights-of-way that use roadways. These routes will go to Indian River substation.”
“These things are happening, and we can make a decision to pursue offshore wind,” said Dunmyer about sea-level rise events. “What type of Delmarva peninsula do you want to leave to our kids?”
U.S. Wind then showed two simulations using timelapse photography.
“Here is a 24-hour timelapse, and it shows the 76-turbine layout,” Dunmyer commented. “We built the simulation on a 14-foot height simulation and [assuming] a person with a 5-foot-plus height looking at the ocean.”
“When sunrise comes up, that is when [turbines] have the most visibility,” said U.S. Wind’s demonstration.
Bethany council members noted that the most visible time of the day is the early morning, right at dawn, when residents and visitors are out strolling the beaches to see the sunrise.
“Yes, that is when they are backlit,” Dunmyer agreed. “When the sun gets from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. range, you will have difficulty seeing them. But in the video from July of 2021, you can see them” at dawn.
“They are visible again at sunset when the sun hits them again,” said the U.S. Wind representative. “I think they are small, and it doesn’t bother me. But different people will see it differently. With certainty.”
COP visual simulations are posted on BOEM’s website. They represent the full build out of 121 turbines at 900 feet. The closest turbine is 12 miles away from Bethany Beach.
“Your viewshed would be able to see the turbines,” Dunmyer told the council and a dozen town residents at the July 15 meeting. “There are visual simulations from Bethany on the BOEM site, and you can also see morning and nighttime shots. They also have the prevailing wind simulation, which comes out of the southwest. When blades are perpendicular to the beach, they are less visible; but when they are facing you from the east, with full frontage, you would have more visibility.”
U.S. Wind representatives stated, “The migratory shorebirds will not be near our wind farms. They are outside the migratory path of these shorebirds. But we do have marine birds who are offshore,” added Dunmyer. “We do airplane and boat counts of the species. We know which birds are in the lease area and we see the density there which are far lower than what we see to the east.”
“BOEM chose this area because it’s a relative desert,” said Dunmyer. “We may have 15 to 20 birds per day. And they fly lower than the turbine blades, in general. There are no visual obstructions; so they can see these windfarms a long way away. So, for example in Europe, they just seem to avoid them.”
“There is some risk, but based on flight behavior, we think it’s quite negligible.”
“I am U.S. Wind’s one Delaware employee right now,” noted Dunmyer. “More employees out of Ocean City are coming. But right now, I am the outreach person. If you want to have me come to your neighborhood association or a group of friends, let me know.”
“We helped the community with the CIB education facility at James Farm nature preserve,” Dunmyer noted of the company’s work in the community to date. “We made a donation to Delaware’s Prosperity Partnership.”
“How much power does Delaware get? asked one town council member. “Delaware is suffering all the construction projects, but Maryland is getting all the power.”
“We are part of a 14-state grid managed by PJM,” said Dunmyer. “So, the contracts determine the billing. The electrons tend to be consumed close to where they connect. We will be using clean energy here in Delaware because of proximity to your homes.”
Dunmyer noted that much of the energy in this region is “now is imported from Pennsylvania. Bringing [wind] energy in from the east might reduce some of the power congestion.”
“U.S. Wind is paying for the infrastructure – and there will be jobs,” concluded Dunmyer. “The State may want to talk about workforce training benefits, and we have let the towns know through the ACT [Association of Coastal Towns] that we can help address your local community concerns or problems.”
“We are strengthening your electric grid right here in Delaware.”
“This wind power is accelerating,” Hardiman said, “and the federal government is looking for more seacoast. They have up to 4 million acres they are seeking from Delaware to the North Carolina coast. Now they are looking for further development, farther east and farther out. This is a ‘call-area process.’ Large blocks, farther east, are going through environmental analysis.”
“There are 20 wind farm developments from New England to North Carolina,” said Dunmyer.
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