POWER pushes for larger offshore wind lease areas

September 5, 2023

Since the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced its almost-final lease areas for offshore wind off the coasts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia in July, it has become more urgent than ever that Delaware act swiftly to engage developers in harnessing a critical resource before our larger neighbors squeeze us out.

Pressing our state legislators to develop and issue a procurement is especially important: Without offshore wind power, Delaware cannot meet its goals for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as stated in the recent Climate Change Solutions Act.

Of special interest to Delawareans are the 101,167-acre wind energy area 26 nautical miles off Delaware Bay and the 78,285-acre wind energy area 23 nautical miles off the coast of Ocean City, Md., a combined 180,052 acres. A wind energy area off the coast of Virginia makes up the other half of the total newly proposed lease area.

Although New Jersey developers can also access lease areas in the New Jersey bight, they will be competing with New York for those. So we may expect competition for ocean space with New Jersey as well.

The two wind energy areas off the Delaware and Maryland coasts comprise about half of the total that BOEM says will provide enough space for 4 to 8 gigawatts of offshore wind turbines. So since we’re only considering half of the total lease area, we’ll need to reduce the total number of proposed gigawatts by half, giving us 2 to 4 gigawatts. That sounds like a lot, right? Plenty for all three states, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey?

Probably not. Maryland alone has an offshore wind goal of 8.5 gigawatts. New Jersey’s offshore wind goal is 11 gigawatts. Though Delaware hasn’t settled on an offshore wind goal, the Climate Change Solutions Act requires that the state achieve net zero emissions by 2050. There is no doubt that a state lacking natural resources like rolling hills to support onshore wind and massive rivers to support hydropower will need to turn to offshore wind to meet its emission reduction goals. So for argument’s sake, let’s add a modest 2 gigawatts as Delaware’s goal. That brings the total need for the tri-state area to 21.5 gigawatts of offshore wind power. The 2 to 4 gigawatts’ worth of ocean space proposed by BOEM begins to look fairly scanty.

Even adding onto this 2 to 4 gigawatts the excess capacity of both the US Wind and Ørsted Maryland projects underway now off Delaware’s coast (1.8 gigawatts and a bit less than 1 gigawatt, respectively), we arrive at a new total of available offshore wind development potential of only 4.8 to 6.8 gigawatts to serve a projected need of 21.5 gigawatts.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the upcoming auction for lease sites would bring unusually large sums to federal coffers because of the scarcity of total acreage. Experience with the 2022 auction for leases in the New York bight shows that competition is keen for offshore wind sites, with six developers there bidding a total of $4.37 billion for six sites totaling 488,000 acres.

People for Offshore Wind Energy Resources urges BOEM to increase the size allotted to development as offshore wind farms. With goals for the tri-state region in the 21.5 gigawatt range, a 4.8- to 6.8-gigawatt space will not begin to meet the need.

Readers are encouraged to contact your legislators in Dover and request that they move forward on a procurement when they swing back into session in January. Together we can make a difference!

Peggy Schultz is co-facilitator of People for Offshore Wind Energy Resources.


  • Cape Gazette commentaries are written by readers whose occupations, education, community positions or demonstrated focus in particular areas offer an opportunity to expand our readership's understanding or awareness of issues of interest.

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