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Delaware wind farm nearer reality

The government's action turns Delaware into the test case for new federal rules and regulations, said Tyler Tringas, wind energy analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The contract with Delmarva Power "puts them leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the projects," Tringas said. "It makes sense for the MMS to say we're going to test this out with Bluewater," Tringas said. The ocean lease application is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Friday.

Feds open bidding for renewable energy projects off coast

The federal government has opened Delaware's ocean waters to bids from renewable power developers, formalizing the state's role as an offshore wind pioneer.

On the eve of Earth Day, the Department of the Interior on Wednesday issued the nation's first Request for Interest for ocean-based renewable energy development. It formally asks developers if they want to build in the waters off Delaware's southern coast, and would result in assigning ocean tracts to one or more developers.

So far, only NRG Bluewater Wind, which has a contract to supply Delmarva Power electricity from a wind farm off Rehoboth Beach, has publicly expressed an interest in building there, although another developer said Wednesday he wouldn't rule out a competing bid.

Amid simmering concerns over global warming and energy independence, renewable power has found its way to the forefront of the national energy debate. With strong winds over the Atlantic and its proximity to major population centers, offshore wind is seen as an effective, if expensive, way for Delaware to participate in the birth of the utility-scale green power industry.

Peter Mandelstam,... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Feds open bidding for renewable energy projects off coast

The federal government has opened Delaware's ocean waters to bids from renewable power developers, formalizing the state's role as an offshore wind pioneer.

On the eve of Earth Day, the Department of the Interior on Wednesday issued the nation's first Request for Interest for ocean-based renewable energy development. It formally asks developers if they want to build in the waters off Delaware's southern coast, and would result in assigning ocean tracts to one or more developers.

So far, only NRG Bluewater Wind, which has a contract to supply Delmarva Power electricity from a wind farm off Rehoboth Beach, has publicly expressed an interest in building there, although another developer said Wednesday he wouldn't rule out a competing bid.

Amid simmering concerns over global warming and energy independence, renewable power has found its way to the forefront of the national energy debate. With strong winds over the Atlantic and its proximity to major population centers, offshore wind is seen as an effective, if expensive, way for Delaware to participate in the birth of the utility-scale green power industry.

Peter Mandelstam, president of NRG Bluewater Wind, said the government's decision to move toward leases here first through the Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service recognizes how far his Delaware project has come.

"This is the final piece of the puzzle that allows NRG Bluewater Wind to proceed: to obtain permits, finance and construct this project," Mandelstam said. "All of the other pieces of the puzzle are in place."

Those pieces include the contract with Delmarva, currently the only offshore wind power purchase agreement in the nation; an agreement to interconnect with the PJM regional power grid; the financial muscle of NRG Energy to help secure financing; and a permit to install a weather tower to test wind speeds and bird movements.

"The fact they chose the First State to literally be the first state is a recognition of the leading role we're playing in an emerging industry," said Gov. Jack Markell.

Test case for offshore wind

There are no wind farms off the U.S. coast, but after several years of public debate there are numerous proposals for them, from Maine to the Carolinas. Europe has numerous offshore wind farms.

The government's action turns Delaware into the test case for new federal rules and regulations, said Tyler Tringas, wind energy analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The contract with Delmarva Power "puts them leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the projects," Tringas said.

"It makes sense for the MMS to say we're going to test this out with Bluewater," Tringas said. The ocean lease application is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Friday.

The process will determine if there is competitive interest in building on the ocean tract, which the service identified as starting 7.5 miles due east of Rehoboth Beach. Bluewater plans to build in an area inside this zone: 13 statute miles from shore, running to more than 20 miles from shore for the farthest turbine.

The company currently has contracts for 295 megawatts of power, mostly for Delmarva, with smaller amounts designated for Delaware's municipal electric utilities, the University of Maryland, the state of Maryland and Baltimore County, Md. Bluewater is seeking other buyers so it can expand the wind farm into a 450-megawatt project, Mandelstam said.

The 25-year deal with Delmarva Power is based on at least 79 wind turbines capable of meeting the needs of 55,000 homes.

The federal map has a small area blocked off to development. This area is a fish haven, said NRG spokesman Dave Gaier.

Collin O'Mara, Delaware natural resources secretary, called the application a "linchpin" for federal permitting to start.

Permitting requirements include bird and marine mammal studies, engineering tests, artist's renderings and community meetings, aviation and homeland security studies, and examining the ocean's floor and what lies beneath.

If there is only one applicant, the Interior Department may proceed with a noncompetitive lease process.

Other firms look elsewhere

Officials at Deepwater Wind, the developer of proposed offshore wind projects in New Jersey and Rhode Island, said they would not bid in Delaware.

The president of another leading offshore wind developer, Fishermen's Energy of New Jersey, said it was "very likely" that company also would not bid in Delaware.

But a developer new to these shores, Offshore MW, based in Germany, might factor in.

The company's one-man U.S. headquarters is in Princeton, N.J., and its efforts have largely been focused on building a wind farm off the coast of New Jersey, said Erich Stephens, the company's vice president.

The election of a new governor there has slowed that process, he said.

In Germany, the company, known there as Wind MW, is developing an offshore project that starts construction next year. Delaware "certainly has not been prominent in our thinking," said Stephens, a former Bluewater project manager in Rhode Island.

But asked if the company would make a bid on the Delaware tract, Stephens responded, "It would just be premature to say until we see the [Request for Interest]."


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

APR 22 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/25842-delaware-wind-farm-nearer-reality
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