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Delaware energy: Markell asks feds to back wind permits

Speaking to a wind industry trade group Thursday, Gov. Jack Markell urged federal agencies to speed the permitting of offshore wind farms so construction can begin on schedule. But one federal official key to the permitting process said there's value to being more methodical.

Del. governor says process moves too slowly

BOSTON -- Speaking to a wind industry trade group Thursday, Gov. Jack Markell urged federal agencies to speed the permitting of offshore wind farms so construction can begin on schedule.

But one federal official key to the permitting process said there's value to being more methodical.

Markell's address kicked off the second day of the American Wind Energy Association's offshore wind workshop. He spoke to more than 700 developers, interest groups, vendors, academics and others who gathered to discuss the future of the growing industry.

The interest in offshore wind is bolstered by the recent popularity of renewable energy as a tool to fight global warming. Developers like NRG-Bluewater Wind, which is planning a project east of Rehoboth Beach, are looking to build their wind farms close to eastern population centers.

But hurdles remain, and one of the primary ones is getting federal permits needed to build. The Minerals Management Service, an arm of the Department of the Interior, recently released long-awaited federal rules for offshore wind farms.

Now it's a matter of the first offshore wind projects actually going through the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Del. governor says process moves too slowly

BOSTON -- Speaking to a wind industry trade group Thursday, Gov. Jack Markell urged federal agencies to speed the permitting of offshore wind farms so construction can begin on schedule.

But one federal official key to the permitting process said there's value to being more methodical.

Markell's address kicked off the second day of the American Wind Energy Association's offshore wind workshop. He spoke to more than 700 developers, interest groups, vendors, academics and others who gathered to discuss the future of the growing industry.

The interest in offshore wind is bolstered by the recent popularity of renewable energy as a tool to fight global warming. Developers like NRG-Bluewater Wind, which is planning a project east of Rehoboth Beach, are looking to build their wind farms close to eastern population centers.

But hurdles remain, and one of the primary ones is getting federal permits needed to build. The Minerals Management Service, an arm of the Department of the Interior, recently released long-awaited federal rules for offshore wind farms.

Now it's a matter of the first offshore wind projects actually going through the permitting process. That includes securing a formal lease on an ocean tract, and performing an environmental assessment.

Markell noted that he met with Minerals Management officials in October to discuss coordination among developers, the state and the dozen federal agencies that have roles in permitting offshore wind projects.

Markell praised the Obama administration for getting the rules out so quickly after taking office, coming after years of delay.

Markell called those developments "promising, but we need to do much more. A two-year competitive lease process is too long." Markell said the process must be "streamlined and efficient."

"If we are to begin installation by 2012 or 2013, we need to expedite all regulatory processes," Markell said. "Time is of the essence."

NRG-Bluewater officials have said their target date for starting to generate electricity, 2013, could be pushed back if there are delays in obtaining federal permits. They have also said the longer it takes to begin construction, the harder it becomes for the project to qualify for federal assistance such as loan guarantees.

Maureen Bornholdt, Minerals Management Service program manager for the Office of Offshore Alternative Energy Programs, said she wasn't sure how long the permitting and leasing process will take. The agency has an obligation to complete all of the requirements set out in the rules, she said. That includes public comment periods, she said.

She said that the wind turbines would likely be in place for 25-30 years, and that warrants a "thoughtful, thorough" environmental analysis.

"How many times have we ever started from nothing? We have rules in place. Now we have to employ them and use them," Bornholdt said. "It's like getting on a bike. The first time it's a little wobbly."

During his address, Markell urged other states to create financial incentives to help build the offshore wind industry. The supporting manufacturing businesses won't show up until there's a critical mass, he said.

"It's going to take much more than a quarter-gigawatt contract in Delaware and a few potential projects of a few hundred megawatts. We need to ensure a steady stream of projects, year after year, and we need to drive down prices through creative financial and policy mechanisms," Markell said.


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

DEC 4 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/23463-delaware-energy-markell-asks-feds-to-back-wind-permits
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