Bluewater Wind Reaches Agreement
With Delmarva Power
A lengthy effort to approve the nation's first offshore wind farm is nearing final approval. On June 23, Bluewater Wind Delaware, a subsidiary of Babcock & Brown, announced a 25-year contract with Delmarva Power to sell the utility up to 200 megawatts of power from an offshore wind farm to be built 11.5 miles off the coast of Rehoboth Beach.
"This contract is a significant step toward developing Delaware's first offshore wind farm, which will almost certainly be the first offshore wind farm in the country," said Hunter Armistead, head of Babcock & Brown's North American energy group. "This offshore wind farm will harness the strong winds off the coast of Delaware to bring clean and renewable energy, stable power rates and new jobs to the area."
"This is an historic day for our country," said Bluewater Wind President Peter Mandelstam. "By signing this contract for the sale of pollution-free, stable-priced energy, Bluewater Wind and Delmarva Power will usher in a new era of power generation. We now expect even greater interest in offshore wind farms, which will help reduce our dependence on foreign sources of fuel and will serve to aid in the fight against climate change and sea level rise."
Delmarva Power has agreed to purchase 200 megawatts of power produced by the wind farm that is expected to have an output of up to 600 megawatts. Bluewater Wind will determine the final size of the wind farm within two years, during which time the company will seek additional buyers of power. In addition to its contract with Delmarva Power, Bluewater Wind has entered an agreement with the Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation for the sale of approximately 100,000 to 150,000 megawatt hours of power and 17 megawatts of capacity to its nine member utilities.
The agreement received legislative approval in late June, allowing changes to the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). These changes enable renewable energy credits (RECs) from the offshore wind farm to be credited to Delmarva Power's account at a rate of 350% (or 3.5 credits) per REC. One REC equals one megawatt-hour of electricity, which equals the average monthly amount of energy used by a Delaware household.
On July 31, the Delaware Public Service Commission, DNREC, the legislature's Controller General, and the state Office of Management and Budget unanimously voted to approve the Bluewater Wind project.
The Next Steps
Final regulations regarding the leasing of land on the Outer Continental Shelf will need to be adopted by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS); draft final regulations are currently being reviewed by the President's Office of Management and Budget.
In the interim, Bluewater Wind will begin the initial planning stages for the wind farm that will include avian studies, installation of a meteorological tower and onsite wave buoys, commencement of more site borings, designation of the final wind farm layout, and work on staging, operation and maintenance ports.
Commentary from Our Conservation Chair
After almost 2 years of continuous effort, citizens of Delaware were successful in putting pressure on members of the leadership in the General Assembly as well as the administration to approve the offshore wind energy project proposed by Bluewater Wind (BWW). While environmental organizations played a key role in that outcome, much of the success was the result of an informed citizenry who are weary of politics as usual in Delaware.
In the end, it was the constant barrage of e-mail messages, letters, telephone calls and personal visits with elected officials that got the job done. Many of you responded to our repeated requests to contact your elected representatives to make your views known. Delaware Audubon recognized the efforts of the ad hoc grassroots group, Citizens for Clean Power, with our annual Conservation Award. While it should not have taken this kind of extraordinary effort, this issue demonstrates the power of an informed and active electorate.
Thanks for making the effort!
The Public Service Commission's Independent Consultant reported recently that the cost of offshore wind energy will be lower than originally predicted due to increasing fossil fuel costs. Many of us made that argument repeatedly during testimony before the Commission and in discussions with elected officials. Under the new agreement, Delmarva Power will purchase 200 MW of power from BWW—less than half of the earlier agreement and one-third of what BWW originally proposed. Nonetheless, with that agreement in place, it is expected that other customers will be more inclined to sign up. There also is an effort to "regionalize" the project with talks currently underway with Maryland and New Jersey.
The agreement sets Delaware up to be the first state to approve and construct an offshore wind energy facility in the U.S. This could put Delaware at the center of a rapidly growing industry. Delaware Audubon repeatedly made this point in testimony. Commitments already have been secured to provide financial support to DelTech to establish a wind energy technician training program.
There is a pronounced shortage of qualified wind energy technicians in the U.S. The turbine manufacturer Vestas is also looking to establish an research and development hub on the east coast as well as a manufacturing operation. Delaware's two auto assembly plants, which are expected to shut down in the near future, would be ideal locations for such a manufacturing operation—which could supply offshore wind energy projects in the mid-Atlantic and northeast. Delaware could be at the forefront of a rapidly expanding renewable energy industry.
Impact on Birds
After reviewing the evidence, Delaware Audubon's board issued a policy statement (see links below) which said we "believe that impacts from wind energy facilities can be minimized through proper siting and operation." The Delaware Audubon Society has supported the wind farm, after assurances that siting of the plant would be in a location with the least impact on birds.
Final site location for the Bluewater Wind farm will be determined by results of an environmental impact study, which will include results of avian impact studies. Bluewater Wind began avian studies earlier this year, although progress has been delayed by a boat accident. Of three originally proposed sites, one in the Delaware Bay was dropped early because of concerns raised by Delaware Audubon and other groups about the site being in the Atlantic Flyway.
An article in the January-February 2007 Sierra magazine said that, "Efforts to make turbines safer for birds seem to be working. According to a 2003 study of 4,700 turbines located outside California, each killed 2.3 birds per year. That's a tiny number compared with the hundreds of millions of birds that fall prey to cats every year, or the 4 million, at minimum, that collide with communication towers."
The Sierra article also pointed out that bird deaths from wind turbines are insignifcant when compared to the number of birds that could be killed by global climate change.
Bluewater Wind's website says, "Fifteen years of data from offshore wind plants operating in Europe confirm that offshore wind parks are safe for avian and marine life. For example, a study of the Horns Rev Wind Park in Denmark examined waterfowl migration patterns around the installation. The findings showed birds quickly adapted and successfully avoided the turbines, with less than one percent flying close enough to be even possibly at risk of collision. In addition, there were no significant negative impacts found on fish, flora and fauna."