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State agencies OK wind farm deal; PSC to handle debate on backup gas plant in Sussex County

One of the most anticipated political votes of the year unfolded as a friendly formality Thursday, as four state agencies unanimously ratified a contract to build what may be the nation's first offshore wind farm. ...At the same time, the agencies agreed that the debate over whether to mandate construction of a backup natural gas plant in Sussex County would be handled by the Public Service Commission, which regulates Delmarva Power, thus excusing the other three agencies from a role. The backup plant was intended to provide a reliable local power source for times when the wind is not blowing as hard.

One of the most anticipated political votes of the year unfolded as a friendly formality Thursday, as four state agencies unanimously ratified a contract to build what may be the nation's first offshore wind farm.

The final blessing by the agencies on a compromise power purchase contract between Bluewater Wind and Delmarva Power came in the House Chambers at Legislative Hall, allowing Bluewater to begin the permitting phase for a 200-megawatt farm off the coast of Rehoboth Beach.

At the same time, the agencies agreed that the debate over whether to mandate construction of a backup natural gas plant in Sussex County would be handled by the Public Service Commission, which regulates Delmarva Power, thus excusing the other three agencies from a role.

The backup plant was intended to provide a reliable local power source for times when the wind is not blowing as hard. When it was proposed last year, the plans were for a much bigger wind farm.

The voice vote on the wind farm by the Legislature's controller general, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Office of Management and Budget and the Public Service Commission was followed by... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

One of the most anticipated political votes of the year unfolded as a friendly formality Thursday, as four state agencies unanimously ratified a contract to build what may be the nation's first offshore wind farm.

The final blessing by the agencies on a compromise power purchase contract between Bluewater Wind and Delmarva Power came in the House Chambers at Legislative Hall, allowing Bluewater to begin the permitting phase for a 200-megawatt farm off the coast of Rehoboth Beach.

At the same time, the agencies agreed that the debate over whether to mandate construction of a backup natural gas plant in Sussex County would be handled by the Public Service Commission, which regulates Delmarva Power, thus excusing the other three agencies from a role.

The backup plant was intended to provide a reliable local power source for times when the wind is not blowing as hard. When it was proposed last year, the plans were for a much bigger wind farm.

The voice vote on the wind farm by the Legislature's controller general, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Office of Management and Budget and the Public Service Commission was followed by sustained applause from the packed chamber floor. Several environmental advocates stood beaming.

Public Service Commission Chairwoman Arnetta McRae said it was the public's involvement that helped push the project through to Thursday's landmark vote.

The wind farm is expected to have roughly 66 turbines dedicated to Delmarva's customers. Bluewater is working to find other customers to expand the farm and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has expressed interest.

The vote followed a deal between Bluewater and Delmarva, brokered by Senate Majority Leader Anthony DeLuca, that was announced June 23. Lawmakers unanimously backed the deal with enabling legislation several days later.

"That was one of the most difficult processes I've ever had to go through," said Controller General Russ Larson, who had to balance the competing views of lawmakers.

In December, it appeared the four agencies would order Delmarva to sign a contract with Bluewater to buy up to 300 megawatts of electricity in any given hour.

But at the urging of legislative leaders, Larson backed away, sending the debate to the General Assembly for the next six months. The final compromise is for up to 200 megawatts of wind power.

"Thank you for all your good and hard work," Bluewater President Peter Mandelstam said Thursday.

"We're excited about what was accomplished today," said Delmarva President Gary Stockbridge. "We think it's a win-win for everybody."

The PSC will bring in witnesses for formal questioning on a backup plant.


Source: http://www.delawareonline.c...

AUG 1 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/16269-state-agencies-ok-wind-farm-deal-psc-to-handle-debate-on-backup-gas-plant-in-sussex-county
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