Library from Delaware
Delaware may want an offshore wind farm, and the idea has won more confidence than any other similar plan in the nation. But the company that has promised it has a few challenges to overcome, not the least of which is financing. Can Bluewater find its sea legs?
Bluewater Wind says it has been given the green light to put up a testing station off the Rehoboth Beach coast, which would be the first physical manifestation of its planned offshore wind farm. Bluewater President Peter Mandelstam said Wednesday the Department of the Interior and the state of Delaware have told Bluewater it has met the requirements to construct a meteorological tower.
In new federal permitting rules published last month, the U.S. Department of the Interior said offshore wind farm operators will need to pay 2 percent of revenues as a royalty to the federal government. That 2 percent is calculated using a formula that relies largely on the wholesale price of electricity.
The Department of the Interior has given Bluewater Wind approval to build a weather testing station off Rehoboth Beach. Bluewater Wind announced Wednesday that it has approval to build two meteorological towers off Rehoboth Beach and New Jersey's coast.
The Bluewater offshore wind farm project's future remains tied to the search for an investor, and does not sink or swim with the fate of Babcock & Brown Ltd., its publicly traded parent company, the company and observers said. On Friday, bankers took control of Babcock & Brown Ltd., after investors voted down a plan to restructure the company's debt. The development further focused attention on the viability of the Bluewater Wind project here.
Gov. Jack Markell wants to end a decades-long practice of viewing energy costs exclusively in terms of dollars and cents, and start considering the long-range impact on public health and the environment. As part of the broader vision, Markell says he'll keep a close eye on Delmarva Power's long-range energy plan, a state required roadmap that is coming before the Public Service Commission. The 10-year plan will help map how the utility buys electricity, and whether it will come from sources near or far.
Delaware's Bluewater Wind will have a tough time raising the $1 billion it needs to build an offshore energy farm now that its principal backer has been financially crippled, experts said Monday. Investment groups that might have made a play for Bluewater in years past have disappeared or are "teetering on nationalization," said Brian Yerger, an alternative energy analyst and researcher with Jesup & Lamont Securities Corp. "The economics are going to have to work out perfectly right for somebody to come in and spend probably $1 billion plus" to build the wind farm."
The toppling of a major international investment firm left Delaware's offshore wind project in uncertain waters Sunday, although one project official said he was optimistic that the Bluewater Wind venture will survive. Babcock & Brown, an Australia-based company that owns "virtually all" of Bluewater Wind, announced Friday it had agreed to a controlled breakup and liquidation of the company, which was once worth $12 billion, with outright collapse and bankruptcy still an imminent threat. ...Babcock & Brown acquired the owners of the Delaware offshore wind project in September 2007, a deal that Bluewater said would give the the wind company the "commitment, strength, reliability and financial backing" needed to build a wind farm off Rehoboth Beach. Those assurances began cracking almost immediately as the global economic crisis took root and spread.
Environmentalists are divided over the merits of a Pepco Holdings plan to string a 500-kilovolt power line through the heart of Delaware to better connect southern power plants with growing demand in the mid-Atlantic region. ...Clean-air advocates say it could help carry clean wind power to the homes and businesses that need it, even as they worry it will also import dirty coal-fired power from the South and Midwest. Wildlife and property-rights advocates are afraid the line will be a blight on the landscape, running through fragile areas along the Delaware River and Bay.
Wind farm developer Bluewater Wind says permitting for the Delaware offshore wind park is moving ahead and the project is squarely on schedule to produce power by 2012. The size of the wind farm has yet to be determined, and Bluewater Wind says it is unclear if power will be produced beyond 2037.
Delaware's major renewable energy project -- the Bluewater Wind offshore wind farm -- is still a go, even as credit markets tighten company officials say. That's true even given significant debt problems faced by Bluewater's Australian parent company, Babcock and Brown.
That summer in Delaware, Bluewater Wind finalized its contract to build a wind farm of 70, 130-meter-tall turbines 13 miles off the coast of Delaware. After a 59 percent rate hike in state energy prices, state legislators passed House Bill 6. This consumer retail act mandated the creation of a new power plant within the state of Delaware. ...According to the [Bluewater] Web site, "There were no significant negative impacts found on fish, flora and fauna." Delaware Audubon Society Conservation Group is showcased in supporting the project, saying it's safe for birds. ...[Thomas Kunz] says there is evidence suggesting that the offshore wind turbines Bluewater proposed to build would attract bats, causing them to die.
Continued debt problems have dragged down the stock value of Bluewater Wind's Australian parent company to around one Australian dollar a share, far from its $31.08 a share value a year ago. But leaders of Babcock & Brown said Wednesday the firm's debt issues, and the current freeze-up of global credit markets, will not derail Bluewater's plan to build a wind farm off Rehoboth Beach.
The Public Service Commission has approved land-based wind contracts between Delmarva Power and two developers after a meeting in Dover that lasted about five hours. Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a 20-year deal between Delmarva and Synergics for a maximum of 100 megawatts of wind power from two wind farms in western Maryland. Commissioners also voted unanimously to approve a 15-year deal with AES for a wind farm in north-central Pennsylvania that would produce up to 70 megawatts.
Delmarva Power's land-based wind farm contracts are scheduled to get a vote at the Public Service Commission today, and the commission staff has recommended approving a 20-year deal between Delmarva and Synergics for a maximum of 100 megawatts of power from a farm in western Maryland. The commission staff also said the PSC should approve a 15-year deal with AES for a maximum of 70 megawatts of wind power from a project in north-central Pennsylvania.
Blue H's 328-foot-tall wind turbine is different from the offshore generators that have sparked opposition from U.S. coastal residents. Because it sits atop pontoons, this turbine can operate in water farther from shore, where winds are stronger and more reliable - and where it's not visible from land. ...Linowes said that those opposing onshore wind projects - which often are gigantic schemes spanning tens of thousands of acres - welcome proposals to place turbines out in the water. She calls current onshore turbines "dinosaurs" and says she finds Blue H's idea appealing because it shows "that we should look to new technology rather than bigger land-based turbines," she said.
[O]ffshore wind power is all blue skies and clear sailing now that Delaware, Texas and Massachusetts have approved projects. New Jersey and Rhode Island are also evaluating offshore wind ventures, while utilities and developers in Georgia, Florida and California are researching technologies and site data. This week focused on two reality checks: A still-evolving regulatory scheme adapted from federal offshore oil and gas drilling overlaps state environmental and economic controls, posing a coordination challenge. ...As important, electric transmission connections and capacity are imperative to move power to utilities inland, and balance supply and demand.
Visitors to Rehoboth Beach, Del., soon may be greeted by more than sand dunes, seagulls and beach umbrellas. If offshore wind advocates have their way, scores of 140-foot blades will be spinning in the ocean breeze nearly a dozen miles away, barely visible to the sunbathers. Offshore wind has taken a back seat to offshore drilling for oil and natural gas in the current energy debate.
Onshore wind contracts to purchase energy for Delmarva Power's standard-offer service customers could be given the nod of approval by early October. Wind-power watchers are awaiting the Sept. 17 publication of the Public Service Commission staff report on the contracts. ...Delmarva Power has asked the Public Service Commission (PSC) for an expedited review of three onshore wind contracts, to ensure the power company can include the contracts in its renewable energy portfolio by 2009.
H. Russell Frisby Jr., who was chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission from 1995 to 1998 and now represents the advocacy group Marylanders for Reliable Power, said Friday at the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference that the clock is ticking for Maryland to free up enough capacity to meet the state's growing demand, and residents need to realize that.