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Delaware loses offshore wind farms to Maryland

Delaware Public Media

The entirety of Delaware’s designated offshore wind capacity is poised to power Maryland homes instead, despite last-minute objections from state and federal officials.

Maryland regulators signed off on what would be America’s largest offshore wind projects located on the federally controlled Outer Continental Shelf earlier this month.

US Wind of Baltimore and Skipjack Offshore Energy are funding the two projects that would cost a combined $2.1 billion to build, generating 368 megawatts combined initially.

Delaware’s Congressional delegation sent a letter to the Maryland Public Service Commission in April, saying, “Although the Outer Continental Shelf is a federal resource, we believe states should play a critical role in deciding what types of energy development occur on and off their shores and how that energy is developed.”

The letter says Deepwater Wind, which owns Skipjack, testified that it doesn’t have specific plans to engage with businesses in Delaware and that it isn’t required to tell Delaware’s congressional officials their company’s intentions, since the project is in federal waters.

Sens. Tom Carper (D), Chris Coons (D) and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D) call those comments “troubling”.

DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin also sent a letter to the Maryland PSC in April, saying, “…we are concerned that we could see offshore wind turbines being erected in the view of our resorts and seashore parks without adequate coordination…”

Garvin wrote that in the absence of coordination between the two states, the projects could negatively affect fishing, birds migrating up and down the coast and economic interests of Delawareans.

US Wind’s operations would rest about 12 nautical miles east of Ocean City, while Skipjack would drop its turbines in a designated space called the Delaware Wind Energy Area (WEA).

The Delaware WEA runs several miles offshore from Rehoboth Beach to South Bethany and Fenwick Isle and was previously leased by Bluewater Wind.

“Site specific permitting within the WEAs requires a regional collaboration,” wrote Garvin, noting that working with Delaware is “essential” in harnessing wind power directly off its shores.

In December, Bluewater turned over the Delaware WEA lease to Deepwater Wind, which operates Skipjack. Deepwater also oversees the Block Island wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island – the first American offshore wind farm that came online earlier this month.

The nation’s first wind farm could have landed in Delaware had investors not pulled out after Bluewater’s announcement of the $1.6 billion project shortly before the 2008 financial crisis.

Carper, then Lt. Gov. John Carney (D) and others widely lauded the project, which shuttered in 2011 after it failed to secure financing.

Now, state and elected officials are trying to cling to any potential scrap of wind-related business that might come to Delaware – a tiny ripple compared to the $238 million in construction costs promised by Bluewater and 80 full time union jobs for 25 years.

“[Gov. Carney] looks forward to learning more about Deepwater Wind’s plans, and how the development could lead to economic opportunity for both Maryland and Delaware,” said Jonathan Starkey, a spokesman for Carney.

US Wind plans to feed the energy generated by its turbines to Delmarva Power's Indian River substation. Skipjack has yet to lock in a grid connection, but has been looking into two sites in Ocean City, according to the PSC approval order.

US Wind’s project is expected to come online in 2020, while Skipjack will start generating power by November of 2022.

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