State officials have extended the deadline to comment on the proposed Skipjack Wind Farm transmission connection in Fenwick Island State Park by a month, to Monday, Dec. 2.
The proposed connection project, which would provide a location for the proposed wind farm to connect to the power grid, was revealed in late September. At the time, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control set a public comment deadline of Sunday, Nov. 3.
In an email Friday, Nov. 1, State Parks Director Ray Bivens said the deadline for public comment had been extended one month.
The extension for comment comes as more information on the proposed transmission facility in the state park comes to light.
The Cape Gazette received a copy Oct. 30 of a memorandum of understanding signed by DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin and Ørsted, the Danish company looking to build the Skipjack Wind Farm in federal waters less than 20 miles due east of Delaware’s beaches.
The memorandum, marked confidential, was signed by Garvin and Ørsted officials July 18 – months before announcing the proposed transmission connection.
The memorandum states several times that signing the document does not mean the proposed transmission connection is going to take place. Bivens said the memorandum provides a framework for discussion, which led to the public open house and comment period to solicit public feedback.
According to Bivens, Ørsted approached DNREC roughly one year prior to signing the memorandum about possible locations for onshore transmission cables.
The memorandum states that in addition to the one-acre site that’s been publicly discussed, Ørsted is looking to use the state park for connection to a second phase of the wind farm that would be built after the first portion is completed. Phase II of the project, according to the document, would need a second 1-acre site, and construction would be expected to begin within five years after the completion of Phase I.
Bivens said Phase II of the proposed project wasn’t discussed during the recent public outreach because Phase I is the only portion of the project that Ørsted is committed to at this time.
As part of Phase I, Ørsted has proposed $18 million in improvements to Fenwick Island State Park. According to the memorandum, as part of Phase II, Ørsted would establish a $740,000 endowment with the Delaware Community Foundation to support maintenance, operations and programming at the park. The endowment would be funded through a payment of $370,000 when all permits are approved for Phase I and a second payment when all permits are approved for Phase II.
Bivens said the Delaware Community Foundation was chosen for the Fenwick Island State Park endowment because Delaware State Parks already has $10 million in private endowment funds managed by the foundation.
The memorandum proposes under-beach easements to connect to the transmission facilities.
The under-beach easement for Ørsted would not be the first for a state park. Bivens said there are two under-beach lease agreements – one at Cape Henlopen State Park for SPI Pharma and one at the Indian River Life Saving Station in Delaware Seashore State Park for Murtech Inc.
Public comments can be made at www.destateparks.com/fenwickimprovements.
Maryland also taking public comment
DNREC isn’t the only state entity taking public comment on the wind farm project.
In an announcement Oct. 25, the Maryland Public Service Commission said it is soliciting public comment until Friday, Nov. 15, because the companies that would like to build wind farms off the coasts of Maryland and Delaware have submitted paperwork saying the turbines they anticipate using are different from the ones they originally planned to use.
The commission awarded offshore wind renewable energy credits for two wind farm projects in 2017.
The larger of the two, U.S. Wind, is expected to be built off the coast of Ocean City, Md., and calls for up to 32 turbines to produce 268 megawatts a year – which, according to U.S. Wind, is enough energy to power 76,000 homes.
The second project, Skipjack Wind farm, is off Delaware’s coastline. The Maryland commission approved a 15-turbine, 120-megawatt-producing wind farm – enough energy to power about 35,000 homes.
The Oct. 25 announcement states Skipjack notified the commission it now plans to use General Electric’s Haliade-X, a 12-megawatt turbine that has a height of over 850 feet when a blade is straight up in the air. For comparison, the turbine at the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean & Environment in Lewes stands about 400 feet high at max height.
The commission said U.S. Wind is also looking to use a different turbine than the ones that were approved because the ones approved in 2016 are no longer commercially available. According to the commission, U.S. Wind has not made a final decision on the new size but is currently evaluating 8-, 10- and 12-megawatt units.
Written comments submitted by mail or by hand must be addressed to David J. Collins, Maryland Public Service Commission acting executive secretary, William Donald Schaefer Tower, 6 St. Paul St., 16th Floor, Baltimore, MD, 21202. For more information on how to comment electronically, go to psc.state.md.us. All comments must include a reference to case number 9431.