Princeton-based NRG Energy Inc. is reported to be discussing the financial rescue of Bluewater Wind, the company that hopes to build the nation's first wind-energy farm off the coast of Delaware and has similar plans for New Jersey.
Bluewater has been mostly dead in the water since its primary Australian financier, Babcock and Brown, was waylaid by the international economic tailspin triggered by the U.S. banking industry implosion.
Bluewater's president Peter Mandelstam said in September that he was confident that a deal with a new ownership investor would be completed within 60 days and that Babcock and Brown will be out
of the project by the end of the year.
The (Wilmington) News Journal reports today that unnamed sources familiar with the plan say that Bluewater is in serious negotiations to sell to NRG Energy Inc.
Rob Propes, Bluewater's project director for its planned Delaware wind farm, declined to comment about the identity of companies the firm is talking to about the sale of a "fully controlled interest," reports the News Journal's Aaron Nathans.
"A sale would include all of the projects in Bluewater's development pipeline, among them the planned wind farm off Rehoboth Beach, a similar venture planned in New Jersey and proposals in other states, he said. Propes said Bluewater expects to announce a deal in the coming weeks."
There are two ironic twists to the story. Nathans notes that:
"Such a deal, if culminated, would pair Delaware's most prominent clean energy project with one of the state's most prominent polluters. NRG...owns the coal-fired Indian River Power Plant, which long has ranked among the state's major air-pollution sources.
But he also reports that NRG earlier this month received "final approval for the largest air-pollution control effort in state history. The $500 million project will cut some smog-forming and toxic emissions at Indian River by 75 to 90 percent. The effort includes shutting down the two oldest units at the four-unit facility."
The second irony is that NRG and Bluewater were competitors at one point and NRG did its best at that time to denigrate Bluewater's Delaware wind plans.
"The Bluewater project was a response to a 2006 state request for proposals for new, in-state generation to stabilize electricity prices and increase reliability on the Delmarva Peninsula. At the time, few Americans had given much thought to offshore wind farms, which made the Bluewater proposal novel. It picked up substantial public support as company officials toured the state.
"But Bluewater had competition from NRG, which was proposing a coal gasification plant, known in some circles as "clean coal," and many believed NRG had the inside track. A third competitor, Conectiv, proposed a natural gas-fired plant.
"During the competition, NRG officials were critical of the Bluewater project, raising questions about the wind company's ability to provide electricity during the hottest summer days, when winds are light. Bluewater ultimately won the competition, and state agencies, lawmakers and eventually Delmarva agreed on a power purchase agreement."
Bluewater's offshore Delaware project envisions the installation of least 79 turbines about 14 miles off the coast of Rehoboth Beach. They are expected to generate enough electricity to power 55,000 homes
In New Jersey, Bluewater has received a $4 million state grant for an offshore meteorological tower and hopes eventually to develop a 350 MW wind project some 16 miles off the coast of Atlantic City.
The U.S. Department of the Interior recently released rules governing offshore wind farms, which developers say will speed construction of such projects.
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