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Delaware's offshore wind farm hits EPA roadblock

NRG-Bluewater Wind, which plans a wind farm off Rehoboth Beach, already has a lease for the location of its met tower. But because environmental permits are proving difficult to navigate, construction of the tower might have to wait until next year, the company's president said.

Project could be delayed till next year

Who knew an offshore wind farm project could get tangled up over air pollution emissions?

The first step toward building an offshore wind farm -- a source of pollution-free power -- is putting up a meteorological tower in roughly the spot where the turbines would be built. Instruments mounted on the tower would record a year's worth of wind speeds and bird flight patterns.

But building such a tower requires a series of permits from the federal government, and those are proving elusive.

NRG-Bluewater Wind, which plans a wind farm off Rehoboth Beach, already has a lease for the location of its met tower. But because environmental permits are proving difficult to navigate, construction of the tower might have to wait until next year, the company's president said.

This, in turn, could delay other project construction milestones.

Bluewater needs permits from four federal agencies to build the tower, and Bluewater President Peter Mandelstam says the primary holdup is a permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Bluewater filed its permit application with the EPA in February, but the agency said it needed more information. Specifically,... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Project could be delayed till next year

Who knew an offshore wind farm project could get tangled up over air pollution emissions?

The first step toward building an offshore wind farm -- a source of pollution-free power -- is putting up a meteorological tower in roughly the spot where the turbines would be built. Instruments mounted on the tower would record a year's worth of wind speeds and bird flight patterns.

But building such a tower requires a series of permits from the federal government, and those are proving elusive.

NRG-Bluewater Wind, which plans a wind farm off Rehoboth Beach, already has a lease for the location of its met tower. But because environmental permits are proving difficult to navigate, construction of the tower might have to wait until next year, the company's president said.

This, in turn, could delay other project construction milestones.

Bluewater needs permits from four federal agencies to build the tower, and Bluewater President Peter Mandelstam says the primary holdup is a permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Bluewater filed its permit application with the EPA in February, but the agency said it needed more information. Specifically, the EPA said it needed to know how much pollution will be emitted by the vessel -- the big boat -- that Bluewater will use in building the tower.

EPA is treating the vessel "as if this was a stationary source of emissions for 50 years. It's a vessel touching the bottom for seven days, and goes away forever," he said.

But, he added: "We follow the law."

Mandelstam said the emissions from the vessel are tough to pinpoint, because it's unclear which vessel will be available to use at construction time. So the company is collecting detailed information on several vessels, he said.

The primary agency from which Bluewater needs a permit is the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. Until recently, it was known as the Minerals Management Service, but that agency was broken up in the aftermath of the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The agency reports it's still waiting for Bluewater to submit its project plans for the tower, which will include location, water depth, construction safety measures, and the technology that Bluewater plans to use. The project plan also includes the results of archaeological and geophysical surveys.

Mandelstam said these plans will be largely complete sometime this month, before the EPA matter is resolved.

Bluewater will also need permits from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has received Bluewater's application, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers, which has not, although a spokesman there said the agency is expecting to receive it shortly.

It's unclear, Mandelstam said, whether the tower can be built as scheduled later this year, before the winter weather gets too rough.

"We are pushing as hard as we can, but we can't make any predictions," he said.

Despite offshore wind projects planned all along the East Coast, no companies have received a permit to put up a met tower, Mandelstam said. The only exception is Cape Wind, the Massachusetts project that built its met tower several years ago, grandfathered in under old federal rules.

Fishermen's Energy of New Jersey this spring deployed a monitoring buoy in shallow state waters three miles off Atlantic City, where it plans to build a small beta offshore wind farm.

While permitting idles, Bluewater and other developers hailed passage of legislation in New Jersey they say will help get offshore wind projects a much-needed revenue stream. Bluewater also is one of three developers planning offshore wind projects off the coast of New Jersey.

The bill creates a requirement that utilities in New Jersey buy a portion of their energy from offshore wind projects. They can do that by purchasing newly created offshore wind renewable-energy credits. Also under the bill, the state will offer $100 million in tax credits to build offshore wind farms.

The bill is awaiting Gov. Chris Christie's signature, and Mandelstam said he expects the governor will sign it.

The legislation tells the European supply chain for offshore wind farm equipment that "New Jersey is open for business," Mandelstam said.


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

JUL 4 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/27046-delaware-s-offshore-wind-farm-hits-epa-roadblock
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