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Delmarva Power filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the Delaware Public Service Commission's order that the company negotiate to buy power from a proposed offshore wind farm and a natural gas plant. The lawsuit, filed in Sussex County Superior Court, comes eight years after the state embraced deregulation, which has led to soaring electricity bills and engendered resentment from ratepayers and lawmakers.
Cooper, who said he has only been keeping up with the wind farm proposal through the news, said his concerns lay with the farm's aesthetics. "I think a pristine skyline would be better than one with windmills in it," Cooper said. He did say he understands the wind farm would be far enough off the coast so as it would not be clearly visible. Bluewater Wind had completed a photo realization tour down the coast, where they exhibited rendered photographs of actual, local beach views of the ocean -- with the windmills digitally rendered on the horizon. Based on those photo realizations, the wind farm would be barely visible on clear days, and completely out of sight on hazy ones.
Delmarva Power is currently negotiating with Bluewater Wind, but the parties agreed not to comment on the negotiations, said Jim Lanard, spokesman for Bluewater Wind on Wednesday, June 6. Lanard said the bid for an offshore wind farm showed that the 200 turbines would occupy less than an acre of the Atlantic Ocean. While he would not comment as to which location - either the water off Rehoboth Beach or Bethany Beach - Phil Cherry of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) has said the state is leaning towards the location about 12 miles off Rehoboth Beach.
Conectiv Energy is asking the state to reconsider the utility's plan to build a natural gas plant at its Hay Road facility north of Wilmington. Four state agencies rejected the proposal last month. The state erred when it instead chose a more costly combination of an offshore wind farm and a natural gas backup plant somewhere in Sussex County, Conectiv argued in a filing to the agencies Monday. Conectiv attorney Elizabeth Wilburn wrote that if the state insists on a wind farm, Conectiv and NRG Energy have the right to compete with Bluewater Wind for that contract.
Offshore wind farms, such as the one planned off the Sussex County coast, will have to wait to gain federal approval because of a laborious effort to regulate the technology. Bluewater Wind, bolstered by an endorsement from four state agencies last week, hopes to build as many as 200 wind turbines in the Atlantic. The company says its turbines will generate pollution-free electricity at a stable price. At the direction of the state agencies, negotiations have begun between Bluewater and Delmarva Power for a long-term power purchase agreement. But even if they strike a deal, and the company wins state and local permits to build an offshore wind farm, Bluewater will have one time-consuming hurdle left.
The state agencies also ordered Delmarva to negotiate with NRG and Conectiv Energy to build a natural gas backup plant, to provide power on peak demand days when the wind turbines may not be moving as much. Even opponents of wind power say a national audience can take lessons from what happened in Delaware. The fact that the state wants to build a natural gas backup shows the real cost of building wind power, said Lisa Linowes, executive director of Industrial Wind Action Group in New Hampshire. "It's like buying a car, and you need to buy a second car on afternoons when it's really hot," Linowes said. Delaware is embracing wind because "socially, it'll be wonderful," but is "shutting the door on this great coal opportunity," Linowes said.
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.
A natural gas plant is suited for that backup role, said Dave Bayless, a professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio University. A natural gas plant is able to fire up quickly, but a coal gasification plant starts up more slowly, he said. That means a coal plant used as a backup would be less responsive during peak demand periods, he said.
The state controller general says he's taking the temperature of legislative leaders before he decides whether to vote for wind power. Russell Larson said he'll meet with leaders of both parties in the House and Senate to get a sense of what they are thinking.
The [Public Service] commission voted unanimously for Delmarva Power to open negotiations with Bluewater Wind to buy power generated by as many as 100 turbines off either Bethany Beach or Rehoboth Beach. The commission also directed Delmarva to negotiate with Conectiv Energy and NRG Energy to back up the wind farm with a gas plant, located in Sussex County.
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.
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.