Monday, February 18, 2008

DE's wind-power debate has implications for NJ

This post was updated on Februray 20.

The battle over a proposed 150-turbine windfarm off Delaware's Rehoboth Beach intensified Saturday as the president of Delmarva Power published an op-ed letter in the Wilmington News Journal attacking Bluewater Wind project as too costly.

The outcome of the debate has implications for New Jersey which also is preparing to consider proposals for ocean wind farms. Neighboring Pennsylvania is ahead of both states in wind-energy development.

"Fifty million dollars to $70 million per year for 25 years --- well over a billion dollars -- this is what is at stake in this critical issue for our customers, " wrote Gary Stockbridge.

The Delmarva executive said his company is seeking proposals from 20 regional wind energy developers and expects those bids will be some $50 million less, per year, than Bluewater Wind's offshore proposal.

"There is only one reason to rush into a 25-year contract for $5.6 billion that will not even start for five years, " he wrote, "a fear that the alternatives will present a far more attractive proposal."

Stockbridge contends that Delaware has explored only a single renewable solution--the Bluewater Wind offshore proposal.

The Bluewater project also is the subject of a new round of hearings in the Delaware State Senate which are expected to run through early March.
More than 100 attended a hearing on February 7 at which Delaware Audubon Society Conservation Chairman Nicholas A. DiPasquale accused committee chairman Harris B. McDowell, III of "trying to derail the offshore wind energy project" and open a debate over green energy alternatives, such as cheaper land-based wind turbines.
But the meeting also attracted critics of the wind-power project, including University  of Delaware Engineering Professor Charles Boncelet who testified that offshore wind turbines would still require conventional fuel backup and would drive up consumer costs.
The Delaware debate is no doubt being monitored by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine's administration which also has expressed an interest in offshore wind projects. The pace of that development has been slower in the Garden State primarily because the NJ Board of Public Utilities wants to get a handle on the financial nuances of such a project and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection is commissioning studies, in advance of public debate, to address the inevitable questions about the effects of wind turbine operations on birds and ocean life.
In Pennsylvania, Governor Rendell saw the advantages of wind energy early in his first term of office. He helped woo Gamesa Corp., a major Spanish wind turbine manufacturer, to the Commonwealth where it's building a manufacturing plant for wind turbine generator blades in Ebensburg, Cambria County. That project will involve up to 500 construction jobs and create more than 200 permanent manufacturing positions.
Gamesa also has decided to locate its U.S. headquarters and East Coast development in Philadelphia. In all, the facilities will combine for a $40 million investment in the state.
Gamesa has worked out 600 megawatts' worth of agreements to sell wind-generated power to Pennsylvania utilities, with a goal of reaching 1,000 megawatts, enough to power more than 300,000 homes.
Numerous on-land wind farms built across Pennsylvania in recent years with state funding incentives already account for a total of 129 megawatts, with another 84 megawatts scheduled to come on line within the next year.

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