Fenwick Island State Park could see millions of dollars in improvements from a lease deal with an offshore wind company.
The Danish energy company Ørsted is seeking federal approval to build the 120 mega-watt Skipjack Wind Farm off the coast of southern Delaware. Ørsted also hopes to lease land from the state of Delaware to connect to the regional electrical grid in Fenwick Island State Park.
State environmental regulators signed a memorandum of understanding with Ørsted in July to continue negotiating a deal in which the state leases the company space for the interconnection facility and receives funding in return.
State parks director Ray Bivens says Fenwick Island would receive what his division has estimated is roughly $16 to $18 million worth of park improvements, plus lease payments and an endowment paid for by the company. The exact terms of this deal have yet to be negotiated.
Skipjack Wind Farm’s development manager Joy Weber says Ørsted identified several points where the wind farm could connect to the electrical grid, but that Fenwick Island State Park is best.
“The proximity is great,” she said. “It’s the shortest cable run from where we’ll be building the actual wind farm in the water to the grid, which is the ultimate location which we’re trying to bring the power.”
Weber says the shortest distance to interconnect means the least disturbance to the ocean floor and roads onshore.
The park improvements DNREC is proposing under the deal include a new two-story parking garage with more capacity, better ADA accessibility, a playground, pickleball courts on the roof of the interconnection facility, a Chamber of Commerce building with a small nature center, and an amphitheater.
“We don't offer many traditional programs [at Fenwick] because we don’t have an amphitheater,” said Bivens. “We don’t have a space in case of rain to even offer educational programs at the park.”
"I don't think there's another state park in our system that doesn't have a playground," he added.
Bivens says the proposed plan would see the portion of developed land in the park increase from 2.4 to 2.6 percent. The proposed parking structure would have a smaller footprint than the current lot, which Bivens says would allow adjacent dunes to grow. He adds the agreement lets the parks division "dream a lot bigger."
“Right now Fenwick is number two in the state in our rated capital list," he said. "We score every project." Bivens says his division has estimated a project to repair the parking lot, which floods, and add a secondary access road would cost $2 million. "Part of the problem with that project not being funded is we’ve averaged over the last six years about $2.7 million to rehab projects statewide.”
DNREC held an open house this week and is gathering public feedback on the proposed improvements.
The MOU between DNREC and Ørsted requires park improvements be made in tandem with the wind farm’s construction.
The wind farm still needs federal and state permit approval, but company officials estimate it could begin construction as early as 2021. Bivens expects the park improvments could happen by the end of 2022.