Article

Agencies give final OK for wind farm

DOVER -- Environmentalists exchanged high-fives on Tuesday after four Delaware agencies ordered Delmarva Power to negotiate to buy power from a proposed offshore wind farm -- the first in the United States. Negotiations begin Thursday between Delmarva and Bluewater Wind to see if they can strike a long-term agreement to harness the wind over the Atlantic Ocean for Delmarva's standard offer service customers.

DOVER -- Environmentalists exchanged high-fives on Tuesday after four Delaware agencies ordered Delmarva Power to negotiate to buy power from a proposed offshore wind farm -- the first in the United States.

Negotiations begin Thursday between Delmarva and Bluewater Wind to see if they can strike a long-term agreement to harness the wind over the Atlantic Ocean for Delmarva's standard offer service customers.

Delmarva also will negotiate with NRG Energy and Conectiv Energy to buy backup electricity, to pitch in on peak demand days, from a proposed natural gas-fired power plant in Sussex County. The agencies, gathering for a Public Service Commission meeting Tuesday, suggested NRG's Indian River site in Millsboro.

Bluewater says its wind farm would provide pollution-free, stably priced electricity for decades. The parties will consider placing scores of wind turbines, perhaps as many as 200, 7.2 miles off Bethany Beach or 12.5 miles off Rehoboth Beach. The turbines would be 406 feet tall, with the top 150 feet being the thin, spinning blades.

It would be the first wind farm built off the coast of this country. States such as Massachusetts and New York are... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

DOVER -- Environmentalists exchanged high-fives on Tuesday after four Delaware agencies ordered Delmarva Power to negotiate to buy power from a proposed offshore wind farm -- the first in the United States.

Negotiations begin Thursday between Delmarva and Bluewater Wind to see if they can strike a long-term agreement to harness the wind over the Atlantic Ocean for Delmarva's standard offer service customers.

Delmarva also will negotiate with NRG Energy and Conectiv Energy to buy backup electricity, to pitch in on peak demand days, from a proposed natural gas-fired power plant in Sussex County. The agencies, gathering for a Public Service Commission meeting Tuesday, suggested NRG's Indian River site in Millsboro.

Bluewater says its wind farm would provide pollution-free, stably priced electricity for decades. The parties will consider placing scores of wind turbines, perhaps as many as 200, 7.2 miles off Bethany Beach or 12.5 miles off Rehoboth Beach. The turbines would be 406 feet tall, with the top 150 feet being the thin, spinning blades.

It would be the first wind farm built off the coast of this country. States such as Massachusetts and New York are debating the technology, and there are numerous offshore wind farms in Europe.

John Hughes, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, noted that he lives in Rehoboth Beach and looks forward to seeing wind turbines on the horizon on days when the haze lifts.

"I can't wait to look out there. I'm gonna love 'em," said Hughes, who voted for the directive. "Little Delaware, of all the states on the East Coast, chose wind power."

The decision comes a year after Delmarva's residential ratepayers took a 59 percent rate increase. Lawmakers told the state agencies to see whether building a new homegrown source of power would help stabilize prices without unleashing large amounts of new pollution. Over the past year, the prospects of wind power gained momentum with a public wary of the environmental effects of a coal-fired plant.

In a sense, Tuesday's decision marks a defeat for NRG, which had proposed building a large coal gasification plant at its Indian River facility. The company advertised it as a cleaner replacement for some of its existing generation units.

But NRG won a consolation prize: The agencies gave it the inside track to back up the wind farm with a small natural gas plant. Conectiv Energy remains a contender for the backup power, but language passed Tuesday said NRG's site could be a good fit for the backup facility. The agencies also said they hoped NRG would convert its older coal-fired plants to cleaner natural gas.

NRG spokeswoman Lori Neuman, in an e-mail, said: "We are pleased that the state agencies sought to clarify that the gas firming plant in Sussex County is a necessary component of the solution adopted." NRG looks forward to beginning discussions with Delmarva this week, she said.

The parties suggested negotiations conclude within 30 to 60 days, with some flexibility.

Delmarva Power President Gary Stockbridge came under criticism several weeks ago for his vow not to negotiate. On Tuesday, he sounded more conciliatory.

"We will negotiate in good faith with all the parties," he said, adding he will try to get the best price for his customers, as well as buying an appropriate amount of power.

Delmarva has long argued it doesn't need to lock its customers into buying power from a new in-state source.

Stockbridge noted that Delmarva's residential and small-business customers will bear the brunt of the costs for the new power plants. He said he hoped to find a way to spread any cost increases over all of Delaware's power customers.

Bluewater officials insist ratepayers will save money over the long term with wind power.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Ruth Ann Minner appeared lukewarm on wind and said NRG's coal gasification proposal could still have a role. But in the end, she didn't stop the wind-natural gas "hybrid" proposal from moving forward. Two of the agencies that signed on are under her jurisdiction: the Office of Management and Budget and DNREC.

The fourth agency, Controller General Russell Larson, reports to the legislative leadership. At Larson's request, the agencies deleted a line in the order that would have allowed the wind farm to stand on its own, without a natural gas backup.

But Bluewater Wind officials worried such a change could mean that if negotiations for a backup facility break down, it would stall the wind farm proposal. Agency heads agreed to revisit alternative solutions if negotiations end in stalemate.

All four agencies must approve any agreement.

"It's a very important day," said Bluewater Wind spokesman Jim Lanard.

Bluewater hopes to start building the wind farm in two years, after further environmental studies and the necessary permits are acquired. Construction is expected to take several years.

Jeremy Firestone, University of Delaware assistant professor of marine policy, said state leaders should be commended.

"Delaware is hopefully the bellwether for the nation. This hopefully heralds the switch from fossil fuels to renewables," he said.

Firestone said it made sense to build any backup plant at NRG's Indian River facility, because it's already an industrial site in Sussex County.

After the meeting, wind power advocate Lisa Pertzoff of the League of Women Voters shared her delight.

"I'm just so relieved it's going forward," she said. "I feel like I've been reading a giant thriller."

 



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

MAY 23 2007
http://www.windaction.org/posts/9032-agencies-give-final-ok-for-wind-farm
back to top