A little over two years ago, the Maryland Public Service Commission awarded offshore wind renewable energy credits to two projects.
One of those projects, Skipjack Wind farm, is less than 20 miles due east of Delaware’s coastline. The company building the project, Ørsted, recently introduced a proposal to connect the 15-turbine wind farm to the power grid by building a facility on the Little Assawoman Bay side of Fenwick Island State Park.
In return for being allowed to build its connection facility, Ørsted has proposed roughly $15 million of improvements to the state park. As proposed, improvements would include a two-story parking structure, a Route 1 pedestrian crossover connecting the bay and the ocean, an outdoor amphitheater, housing for lifeguards, a new park bathhouse, a new building for the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce and an overall improvement in roadway infrastructure. According to drawings prepared by Ørsted, the connection facility would be taller than the tree line and approximately one acre in size.
In an email Oct. 2, Joy Weber, Ørsted's development manager for the Skipjack Wind project, said Ørsted has spent more than a year analyzing potential interconnection sites across the Delmarva Peninsula. She said Fenwick Island State Park is not only the ideal location for interconnection, but also presents an exciting new model that would both improve a popular state park and advance renewable energy in the region.
Delaware State Parks Director Ray Bivens stopped by the Cape Gazette office Oct. 1. He said the state has a list of capital improvement needs for its state parks, and Fenwick Island State Park is second on the list with an estimated $2 million worth of improvements needed. He said the bathhouses need to be replaced, the entrance and exit road can’t handle the amount of vehicle traffic the park sees, the parking lot is basically hot top on sand, and other than the beach, there are no additional recreational opportunities for visitors.
Topping the state park capital improvement list is Cape Henlopen State Park’s sewer system, estimated to cost $5.5 million to replace.
Bivens said he’s in favor of Ørsted’s proposal. He said state park capital improvements are paid with fees and one-time monies from the state. He said he seriously doubts most of these improvements would be made if Ørsted didn’t do them.
Ørsted has proposed paying for all the improvements, he said. There are other public/private partnerships of this nature throughout the state park system. He then listed off a few – Big Chill Beach Club, Hook ‘em and Cook ‘em, Delaware Center for the Inland Bays.
Bivens said if Ørsted really wanted to, they could simply ask for a utility easement and not do any of the improvements.
Weber said the company’s motto is Love Your Home and it wants Delaware residents to truly benefit from this proposed partnership. “The renovations help us fulfill that commitment.”
As director of all the state’s parks, Bivens said one of the things he takes pride in is that south of Dewey Beach, a significant portion of the state’s coastline is primarily undeveloped ocean and bay property owned by the state.
Weber said Ørsted has taken great care to consider the Fenwick Island community’s needs in initial site designs, including the garage.
Importantly, Ørsted anticipates expanded parking on site will reduce traffic congestion along Route 1, leading to quality of life benefits in the area.
“It is our hope that residents will see that, on the whole, site designs deliver a more modern state park that enhances public recreation in Delaware,” said Weber.
If the state doesn’t approve the plans, Weber said Ørsted has identified a number of alternative sites for bringing this cable ashore, which will be made public later this year. Weber declined to put a deadline on the state making a decision, but she said Ørsted anticipates the process being completed in 2020.
Bivens said the state will be taking comments on Ørsted’s proposal for three more weeks. He said comments can be made at www.destateparks.com/fenwickimprovements.