How Delaware can win with offshore wind
As we celebrate Energy Awareness Month in October, I want to thank the many Delaware residents and civic groups I have met with virtually in recent months to discuss Ørsted’s Skipjack Wind Farm.
I have received lots of good questions about Skipjack and what it means for Delaware’s tourism, jobs, and ecosystem. I’d like to answer a few of them here.
One question I often hear is whether offshore wind can coexist with tourism. The answer is yes. The University of Delaware recently released a study showing that 90 percent of local beachgoers say wind turbines 20 miles offshore would not detract from their beach experience. Ten percent said turbines would improve their experience. Additionally, a University of Rhode Island study found tourism thrived after our Block Island Wind Farm went into operation near Block Island, Rhode Island in 2017.
Clean energy opponents falsely claim that an N.C. State study shows projects like Skipjack could harm coastal tourism. In reality, the study found that for projects farther than eight miles offshore - i.e., projects like Skipjack - “the visual impacts diminish substantially for many survey respondents and it is unlikely the turbines would negatively impact coastal vacation property markets.”
Many residents have asked if Ørsted still plans to bring Skipjack’s renewable energy onshore in Delaware to connect to the region’s energy grid. We are still considering our options about where in Delaware to connect to the grid. What is certain, though, is our commitment to ensuring an open dialogue with communities and stakeholders as we develop a solution. Regular communication and collaboration with you is a critical part of our mission.
One of our fundamental principles is to limit the potential impacts that developing wind farms may have on nature and communities like Delaware. It’s one reason why Corporate Knights named Ørsted the world’s most sustainable company this year. As we develop Skipjack, we will seek constructive feedback from Delaware residents and keep our commitment to being a good neighbor at the forefront.
Developing offshore wind on the East Coast is expected to support 83,000 East Coast jobs and deliver $25 billion in annual economic output by 2030, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
We held the Skipjack Wind Farm’s first supplier day in Bethany Beach this year, with more than 100 businesses attending to learn how to compete for offshore wind business. As COVID-19 restrictions ease, we will hold more in-person events to help Delaware and Maryland businesses enter this rapidly growing industry.
Others have asked whether electromagnetic fields from offshore wind cables will harm public health. University of Delaware researchers put it best when they wrote, “ongoing scientific studies find that cell phones, household appliances, and overhead power lines expose people to much stronger electrical and magnetic fields than buried transmission lines and substations.”
By developing Skipjack nearly 20 miles offshore, we reduce proximity to bird concentration areas. We deploy observers and underwater hydrophones to monitor for marine mammals, follow agency guidance and pause construction if animals are nearby. Horseshoe crabs will be protected by avoiding nearshore construction during spawning season.
Skipjack will undergo a rigorous federal review led by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, with input from U.S. Fish & Wildlife and other agencies. We only secure permits to build Skipjack after questions about radar, public health and wildlife are satisfied. Learn more at boem.gov.
With just 12 turbines, the Skipjack Wind Farm will generate enough renewable energy to power 35,000 homes in the Delmarva region.
Our region has a chance to play a significant role in building a new American industry: one that will create jobs, provide new opportunities for local businesses, and help fight the effects of climate change. We are now, as we have always been, committed to working together to realize this project and the bright future it helps to support for our communities.