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University of Delaware plans test field for wind turbines

The University of Delaware is moving forward with plans to develop a field to test wind turbines in shallow water off the Delaware coast. ...State environmental officials said they haven't heard back from university representatives on the proposal since they met in February. State permits would likely be required before any project could proceed.

The University of Delaware is moving forward with plans to develop a field to test wind turbines in shallow water off the Delaware coast.

School officials have ruled out locations in Delaware Bay on environmental grounds -- namely that the area is an important migration route for shorebirds and waterfowl, said Jeremy M. Firestone, associate professor of marine policy and associate professor of legal studies at the College of Earth, Ocean and the Environment.

Of special concern, he said, is the migration path between the Delaware and New Jersey sides of Delaware Bay. Each fall, teams of volunteers monitor bird migrations at Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch in Lewes and have counted thousands of birds. This season, they counted 32,267 birds, nearly double the previous year total for the fall migration.

Many travel across the entrance to the bay from Cape May, where they also have been counted by teams at the Cape May Hawk Watch at Cape May Point in New Jersey.

"We aren't looking at any site in Delaware Bay," Firestone said.

Earlier this year, university officials met with state environmental regulators to discuss the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The University of Delaware is moving forward with plans to develop a field to test wind turbines in shallow water off the Delaware coast.

School officials have ruled out locations in Delaware Bay on environmental grounds -- namely that the area is an important migration route for shorebirds and waterfowl, said Jeremy M. Firestone, associate professor of marine policy and associate professor of legal studies at the College of Earth, Ocean and the Environment.

Of special concern, he said, is the migration path between the Delaware and New Jersey sides of Delaware Bay. Each fall, teams of volunteers monitor bird migrations at Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch in Lewes and have counted thousands of birds. This season, they counted 32,267 birds, nearly double the previous year total for the fall migration.

Many travel across the entrance to the bay from Cape May, where they also have been counted by teams at the Cape May Hawk Watch at Cape May Point in New Jersey.

"We aren't looking at any site in Delaware Bay," Firestone said.

Earlier this year, university officials met with state environmental regulators to discuss the proposed offshore wind turbine test facility. They suggested various locations, including one just off Beach Plum Island and another further offshore between the Lewes Beach shoreline and the Delaware Bay navigation channel. They proposed five sites along the Atlantic Ocean coast -- all just off the beach from Gordons Pond south to Rehoboth Beach.

Firestone said they continue to look at potential locations in the Atlantic -- some in state waters within three miles of land, others within federal jurisdiction. The advantage of ocean locations is that they are closer to power transmission lines, he said.

State environmental officials said they haven't heard back from university representatives on the proposal since they met in February. State permits would likely be required before any project could proceed.

University officials met with the Army Corps of Engineers in September to discuss the proposal and suggested they would like to place eight towers at a test site. Two towers would be used to gather data on weather, and the others would be used to test wind turbine equipment.

Sarah Rivette, a spokeswoman for the corps, said the session was a pre-application meeting, and typically it takes another two to six months before corps regulators see a permit application.

They haven't submitted anything yet," she said.

Any permits would likely involve land-disturbing activities such as where they would bring cables onshore and connect with transmission lines, she said.

University officials and the federal National Renewable Energy Laboratory announced plans in June to partner over the next five years to develop a shallow-water research site where companies can build and test emerging offshore wind technologies.

At the time, university officials said the test site will likely be developed within three miles of the Delaware coast, in state-administered waters.

"The real problems are permitting issues," said Michael Robinson, deputy director of the National Wind Technology Center, a part of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Robinson announced the new partnership as the University of Delaware commissioned its new dry-land wind turbine at its Lewes campus.

There are no pre-approved offshore locations for companies that want to test wind technologies that would be installed off the coast.

"The key is to have it in state waters, and the key is the packaged deal," he said. This would allow a company to come in and immediately launch a trial of a new technology, he said.

At the time, state Environmental Secretary Collin O'Mara said that among the steps that need to be taken are determining state permitting protocols, finding the right location and determining what the site will look like.

O'Mara said a project like this could have broad economic benefits for Delaware -- especially as the state works to develop its alternative-energy technology sector.

Since June, a group of neighboring property owners has complained about noise from the turbine and voiced objections that university officials did not do enough research on possible impacts before construction of the turbine.

Some neighbors say that at times the turbine is so loud it sounds like a jet engine. Others worry about what would happen if one of the blades breaks and flies off.

Wind conditions at an offshore site -- even one close to shore -- would likely differ from the conditions at the university's Lewes campus.

Wind speeds at the Lewes turbine average about 6 meters a second, he said.

Data from monitoring buoys collected off the coast indicate wind speeds likely average about 8 meters a second, he said.

Firestone said that with this proposal, university leaders are taking their time.

The plan is to have a site where turbine manufacturers can test new designs or old designs in new locations, he said.

"We've got to line up the players," he said.

In addition, the university needs to look carefully at both site characteristics and the potential for environmental impacts, he said.

"You need to do it right," he said. "You can put your foot forward quickly, stub your toe and lose a year."


Source: http://www.delmarvanow.com/...

DEC 5 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/29188-university-of-delaware-plans-test-field-for-wind-turbines
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