Delaware is the wallflower of offshore wind party

January 6, 2023

When it comes to offshore wind development, Delaware has many advantages.  

Yet opportunities for clean energy from our abundant offshore wind have repeatedly stalled over the last 15 years. Meanwhile, all our Atlantic seaboard state neighbors from Maine to North Carolina are moving forward rapidly with offshore wind farm projects.

President Biden, a longtime Delawarean who vacations in Rehoboth Beach, has pledged to install 30 GW of offshore wind energy nationwide by 2030. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act provided $30 million to boost research into deployment of floating wind platforms beyond the continental shelf.  Delaware Sens. Coons and Carper strongly support offshore wind.  

Over the years, wind projects have been proposed for Delaware, working groups have issued lengthy reports, and governors have expressed enthusiasm – yet we remain a non-wind outlier. A University of Delaware report issued last April, the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, concluded that the state could buy wind power for less than half the cost that it currently pays for fossil-fuel-generated electricity when the health and environmental benefits are considered. But it is not clear how state officials are responding to those findings.

Given the favorable economic findings of the SIOW, the federal support and the state’s own past efforts, why is Delaware still hesitating?

In 2008, Gov. Carney, then lieutenant governor under Jack Markell, was an outspoken booster for offshore wind. At that time, Bluewater Wind had a power purchase agreement with Delmarva Power. But problems arose with the contract in 2010, and eventually it was terminated. NRG Energy, Bluewater’s parent company, was unable to find a financing partner, and the project died.  

However, Delaware’s loss was Maryland’s gain. In 2016, NRG sold the lease on 96,400 acres that it had been granted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to Skipjack Wind Farm, which is now being developed off the coast of Rehoboth Beach by its Danish parent company, Ørsted. Ratepayers in Maryland will benefit from renewed economic activity, jobs and clean energy from wind off the Delaware coast. East of Ocean City, US Wind is developing the Marwin and Momentum wind farms.

The Inflation Reduction Act extended tax credits to developers through 2032 for projects that begin construction before Jan. 1, 2025. A host of other credits relating to jobs – locating in low-income areas, meeting certain pay standards, and benefiting environmental justice communities – are also available. US Wind is refurbishing the old Sparrow’s Point steel production facility in Baltimore and Ørsted is renovating the Crystal Steel Fabricators’ facility in Federalsburg, Md. Offshore wind power is fast becoming a sizable job-creating industry along the Eastern Seaboard.  

Meanwhile, Delaware proponents of offshore wind are mystified. Will the First State take advantage of the tremendous federal support for offshore wind? If our political leaders have plans for Delaware wind, what are they? With so much at stake for energy, the environment and our state economy, we need to hear from our leaders.

Mary Douglas
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