For more than a week now, a 145-foot lift boat has been off the coast of Delaware helping conduct a geological survey for Ørsted, a wind power company evaluating routes for the cables needed to connect its Skipjack Wind Farm projects to the power grid.
The Denmark-based company has twice been awarded Offshore Renewable Energy Credits by the Maryland Public Service Commission – for Skipjack Wind 1, a 120-megawatt project in 2017; and for Skipjack 2, an 846-megawatt project, earlier this month. The vessel, a 145-foot-long lift boat named Northstar Voyager, is owned by New Jersey-based Northstar Marine.
Brady Walker, Ørsted Mid-Atlantic market manager, said the company began a survey of the ocean floor in April 2021 in consultation with the U.S. Coast Guard and numerous other maritime stakeholders.
“Ørsted is evaluating several potential landfall and interconnection sites in Delaware for its Skipjack Wind projects,” said Walker. “The survey is a scientific endeavor that will further enhance our already deep understanding of the ocean floor and help us make the most environmentally sound decisions possible as we develop the Skipjack Wind projects.”
A little more than two years ago, Ørsted and officials from Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control revealed plans for a transmission connection in Fenwick Island State Park for Skipjack. In return for being allowed to build a facility to connect its wind power to the grid, Ørsted offered to fund nearly $20 million in improvements to the state park. However, about 10 months later, Ørsted pulled the offer off the table after it was met with public opposition from local government officials, residents and business owners.
Since the offer was removed, Ørsted hasn’t provided any details about future onshore connection sites.
Walker said the evaluation for future land sites remains ongoing, and it would be premature to draw conclusions about landfall based on the varying locations of survey vessels. Ørsted is committed to completing landfall and interconnection with minimal environmental and community impact, he said.
“Ørsted takes its responsibility to be a good neighbor very seriously and is committed to a dialogue with stakeholders in Delaware about potential landfall and interconnection points before a final decision is made,” said Walker.
Individuals interested in the company’s survey work can review mariner briefings published on the company’s website at us.orsted.com, said Walker. Briefings are submitted as needed to the U.S. Coast Guard and distributed to the maritime community in Maryland and Delaware, he said.
According to a mariner briefing issued Dec. 20, survey activities for Skipjack are ongoing and projected to end in January 2022. The report says these survey operations were initially scheduled to conclude by the end of July 2021, but delays pushed work to the end of December, and then more delays pushed it into January 2022.
The Northstar Voyager isn’t the only vessel in local waters Ørsted is using for geophysical surveying. According to the mariner’s report, there are also the 53-foot MV Time and Tide, and the 145-foot MV Go Liberty.