Library from Delaware
Delaware officials delayed making a decision Tuesday about a proposal to build 200 large windmills offshore of Atlantic beach resorts, saying they needed more time to study this and other competing power-plant bids...One sticking point seemed to be a new plan to combine the wind farm -- proposed several miles offshore of either Rehoboth Beach or Bethany Beach, Del. -- with a backup plant burning natural gas.
In the meantime, wind power is blowing strong. The Delaware proposal, which should get a preliminary green light this week from state officials, pits wind power against its traditional archrival: cheap, plentiful, but dirty, coal. So far, locals seem to be favoring wind, despite the fact that the turbines will be visible, albeit slightly, on the horizon of heavily trafficked beaches. Those beaches, and the tourists they attract, are a major source of state revenue.
So far, the debate over the windmills has turned on global questions about climate change and very local concerns about the impact on the ocean view. But from the beach, the wind farm's backers say, the giant turbines would look smaller than a boardwalk french fry.
An energy plan that would draw electricity from a natural gas-powered plant and an offshore wind farm in Sussex County could be a net loss for consumers, critics said Thursday. The proposal, issued by the Public Service Commission on Wednesday, would bring the nation's first offshore wind farm to the coast of Delaware. But it also calls for construction of a 177-megawatt natural gas turbine in Sussex County at a site east of Bridgeville to help balance erratic transmissions from the wind farm. And that, said Sen. Harris B. McDowell III, D-Wilmington North, is a costly combination.
Delmarva Power's president said today the company won't negotiate with a wind power company or a natural gas company unless compelled by a court of law. On Wednesday, the Public Service Commission staff recommended commissioners vote to order Delmarva to negotiate with Bluewater Wind and Conectiv Energy for long-term power purchase agreements.
A Public Service Commission staff report recommended directing Delmarva Power to negotiate with Bluewater Wind LLC to buy power from Bluewater's proposed offshore wind turbines. The report also said Delmarva should negotiate with Conectiv Energy to buy power from a natural gas plant in Sussex County, in part to provide backup for the wind power. The PSC released the 73-page report late Wednesday afternoon......The report acknowledged the recommendation might be expensive, but called it an innovative, environmentally friendly solution.
A new federal proposal to help electricity flow more freely could help the energy-choked East Coast. But it could also infuriate landowners, who have traditionally gotten their way in fights against utilities in Delaware. U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman last week named Delaware as part of his proposed eastern National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor. It would run from New York to Virginia, and west to Ohio. A second corridor would run through California, Arizona and Nevada.
he United States Department of Energy issued a proposal yesterday that could reopen the way for a 190-mile high-voltage transmission line through central New York that state and local officials tried to block last year. The department declared a multistate area from West Virginia to upstate New York a "National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor," where congestion of existing power lines makes the electricity grid unreliable and subject to blackouts.
South Bethany residents can get a sneak peak at what a wind farm off the coast of Delaware would look like. Bluewater Wind, which proposed a 200-turbine wind farm to win a long-term energy contract, is in the midst of a photo visualization tour on Delaware's coast. South Bethany Town Hall is playing host to the exhibit, which features visual displays of the proposed wind farm as it would appear off the coast.
Cape Wind's project has been rocky, with a vocal opposition expressing concerns about the effect off-shore wind turbines would have on fish and bird populations, tourism and property values and fighting the project in court. It is also the first proposed off-shore wind project in the country, raising many questions about the permitting process. But whether the situation in Massachusetts will affect Bluewater Wind's project remains to be seen. "I think it's too early to tell whether it helps or hurts, but any momentum will support additional off-shore wind projects," said Jim Lanard, a spokesman for Bluewater Wind. "We do not expect to run into the major hurdles that Cape Wind has experienced, and therefore predict that our approval process will be considerably shorter than theirs."
A day after a consultant's report called for a delay in choosing a new power plant, speculation mounted that the process is on the verge of sputtering out and could wind up back with the General Assembly. "This has gotten off track," said House Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View. "I think it's going to get thrown back in our laps."
Bluewater Wind LLC has nothing to hide - so says a company representative and an energy expert. Thomas P. McGonigle, an attorney representing Bluewater, asked in a letter to Arnetta McRae, the chair of the state's Public Service Commission, that Bluewater not be required to disclose some information to the public regarding a key vendor. The letter stated that Vestas Wind Systems A/S, which would build turbines for Bluewater, had some concerns about company information being publicly disclosed. "Vestas has strong objections to the release of certain aspects of this information and has now invoked its Non-Disclosure Agreement with Bluewater," McGonigle said in the letter.
State regulators need more information - and possibly a new round of bids - before they rule on Delmarva Power's need for a new in-state power supply, according to a Public Service Commission consultant report released late today. The findings threatened to delay or disrupt a multi-billion dollar competition that has ignited an intense public debate over state energy and environmental policy. Public comment meetings on the issue are scheduled for next week in all three counties. Legislation approved last year called for a decision on the power plants bids by early May. Lawmakers ordered the selection process in a utility deregulation reform measure that also required Delmarva to submit a new 10-year plan for supplying customer needs. The consultant report released today found a series of gaps and weaknesses in Delmarva's proposed long-range plan. It also suggested a request for bids from out-of-state suppliers or development of a second-round of "renewable" energy project bids if state officials back an offshore wind-farm already under consideration. "Absent such a market test, we are not comfortable in making a recommendation that the state agencies direct Delmarva to negotiate a power purchase agreement with any of the bidders," the consultant wrote.
Local residents will be able to see just what a proposed offshore wind farm would look like, before it is even built. Bluewater Wind - which have put in a bid to the state and Delmarva Power to build a 200 turbine offshore wind farm - is planning a photo visualizations tour for the resort coast. The exhibit will feature visual displays of the proposed windfarm as if it were being viewed from Delaware beaches.
States with renewable portfolio standards have generated growth in the renewable energy sector, but many of the Appalachian states don't have one. Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New York all have some fairly progressive goals, but West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee don't have a state RPS and wind projects often ignite battles.
With all the discussion of a wind farm possibly being placed in the ocean spanning Delaware's resort coast, the question comes up - is it all just talk? There have been many public meetings, seminars and lectures regarding the offshore wind farm's proposal and a lot of vocal support for it. The wind farm was proposed by Bluewater Wind in response to Delmarva Power being required by the state to look into ways of adding to the power supply. It is one of three bids - the other two being a cleaner-coal facility by NRG and a natural gas plant by Conectiv. Conectiv scored highest in last month's bid evaluations, with Bluewater Wind coming in second and NRG, third. The bids are under review by four state agencies: the Public Service Commission, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Office of Management and Budget and the Controller General's Office. Delmarva Power representatives have requested all three bids be thrown out.
GEORGETOWN -- Wind and coal power advocates pressed their case, sometimes angrily, Monday as the first round of public comments ended in a potential multibillion-dollar race for rights to build a new Delaware power plant. About 150 people turned out for the state-sponsored session at the Georgetown campus of Delaware Technical & Community College. Four state agencies convened the meeting while evaluating three proposals for plants ranging in size from 177 megawatts to 600 megawatts. State lawmakers ordered Delmarva Power to seek new, reliable in-state electric supplies for its standard-offer customers last year after public complaints about rate hikes that followed deregulation in 1999. Bids included Conectiv's proposal for a 177-megawatt, mostly natural gas-fired plant to meet peak needs; Bluewater Wind LLC's offer of a 200-turbine windmill farm off the Atlantic Coast and NRG Energy's proposal for a 600-megawatt plant that would burn synthetic, natural gas-like fuel made from coal.
Public Service Commission staffers are expected to call for the release of a substantial amount of information being withheld by companies vying to build a new power plant, a top commission official said Thursday. The information — including how the projects would be financed, costs of electricity they would generate, and the amount of pollution they would emit — has been blacked-out from documents because the companies claim releasing it would put them at a competitive disadvantage. But several individuals and organizations, including The News Journal, have called for the release of details because the state’s formula for choosing the winning bidder is based solely on financial and pollution information. Those calls were rebuffed until Wednesday when Bruce Burcat, the executive director of the Public Service Commission, said the agency was reviewing the documents with an eye toward recommending release of details at its March 20 meeting.
When Delmarva Power customers saw their bills increase by 59 percent last May, many blamed the increasing cost of natural gas. So state officials went looking for a solution that would protect Delaware residents against volatility in the energy market. The leading plan? Build another natural gas plant. Conectiv’s proposal to build a 180-megawatt natural gas turbine plant at its Hay Road complex beat out plans for an offshore wind farm and a coal gasification plant. A state evaluation of the proposals favored the plan because it offered the best price for consumers in the next 10 years. But a state consultant and a Delmarva consultant concluded that all three proposals would cost ratepayers more than they pay now.
A fight over the right to build a new in-state power plant has turned Delaware into a tiny battleground in the global fight over clean energy technologies and heat-trapping "greenhouse" gas emissions. But with a series of public hearings set to begin on Tuesday, most members of the public are shooting in the dark when it comes to balancing the environmental impact and costs of the projects. Crucial facts about the three competing proposals remain out of public reach or in dispute. On paper, a review by the Public Service Commission offers residents and policymakers a chance at the cleanest electricity available -- whether it be through wind-, coal-, or natural gas-powered plants -- in amounts that officials say will stabilize prices and improve service reliability.