The up-again, down-again US offshore wind industry is looking up again, and this time Maryland is in the driver’s seat. Plans are moving ahead for two offshore projects in the state, MarWind and Momentum Wind, for a combined 1,100 megawatts. One final piece of the puzzle is a 35-mile cable to bring all those clean kilowatts ashore, and the neighboring state of Delaware is coming through with the hookup.
The Long And Winding Road To Offshore Wind Leads Through…Delaware
Back in 2010 the Obama administration tried to spur the US offshore wind industry into life by coordinating the efforts of Atlantic coast states under the banner of the new Atlantic Coast Offshore Wind Energy Consortium. That didn’t fly for various reasons, including politics.
The cost factor is cited as the reason Delaware passed on an offshore opportunity back in 2018, but fossil energy stakeholders have also been fighting tooth and nail to stop the US from planting wind turbines in coastal waters. Nevertheless, but cracks in the phalanx are beginning to show.
US Wind has been working the offshore wind levers in Maryland since 2014, when the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management tapped it for the winning bid on Offshore Lease Area OCS-A 0490, about 10 nautical miles off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland.
By 2016 the company, which is majority-owned by the leading Italian clean energy developer Renexia, was preparing the final design for 80,000 acres worth of wind turbines and a 35-mile cable connecting the site to a power plant in Delaware. The company currently has two offshore projects approved in Maryland, the 300-megawatt MarWin wind farm and Momentum Wind, which weighs in at 808 megawatts.
Delaware Says Buh-Bye Coal, Eventually
If you’re wondering why US Wind is connecting their offshore turbines to Delaware and not their host state of Maryland, that’s a good question. If you have any thoughts about that, drop us a note in the comment thread.
Meanwhile, we’re guessing it’s a relatively straightforward matter of onshore grid access and related infrastructure. Last year, Coastal Point reported that the cable will land in Indian River Bay and travel about eight miles up Indian River, to the coal-fired Indian River Power Plant in Dagsboro, Delaware owned by NRG Energy.
The Delaware connection could represent an improved outlook for shutting down the 1950’s-era, 410-megawatt power plant sooner rather than later.
Generation units at the plant have been upgraded or replaced over the years, but the coal has persisted. Plans have been in the works to shoo coal off the premises, but a report last summer issued by the regional grid manager PJM indicated that the grid is not ready to absorb the loss of 410 megawatts’ worth of coal power.
“The scheduled June shutdown of Delaware’s only remaining coal-fired power plant, and one of the state’s top polluters, has been delayed at least four years while upgrades to the electrical grid are made,” Delaware Online reported last year.
On the bright side, last summer NRG’s Vice President of Sustainability, Jeanne-Mey Sun, affirmed NRG’s commitment to ditching coal. Natural gas is still in the picture but NRG has also been transitioning to an energy-as-a-service model in which the company supports new energy efficiency and electrification opportunities for ratepayers.
“Our focus included decarbonization pathways (electrification, carbon capture, use, and storage, hydrogen, and reducing the carbon footprint of the natural gas supply chain), proposed sustainability reporting rules and standards, and the climate-tech start-up ecosystem, which we believe will help us identify technologies and partners that could help both NRG and our customers decarbonize,” Sun said in an online Q-&-A session recapping NRG’s sustainability actions in 2022.
Maryland Shows Delaware The Offshore Money
Even without an offshore wind farm to call its own, Delaware still stands to gain many dollars from the action in Maryland, as the new host of a key onshore grid connection.
In the latest development, the Intertubes have been lighting up with news that Delaware and US Wind are putting the finishing touches on negotiations over the cable hookup, including a lease for an underground cable landing site at 3Rs Beach.
Delaware Governor Jay Carney broke the news on December 19, stating that “Delaware will become an active player in the growing offshore wind industry,” which is a pretty neat trick for a state without any offshore turbines to call its own.
The offshore wind cable project “aligns with other objectives, including our emission reduction targets and meeting the net-zero carbon goal set last year,” Governor Carney added. “Transitioning to clean energy sources is essential to reducing manmade greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change, and these wind projects are part of that transition.”
Delaware Makes Bank On Offshore Wind…
As announced, the deal with US wind will provide Delaware utilities with $76 million worth of renewable energy credits (REC’s). US wind will also commit to pouring additional dollars into grid upgrades.
That’s just for starters. The money will also support dredging projects, clean energy workforce development, an environmental education scholarship fund, and a new fund for climate change projects at state parks.
Also part of the plan is a new infusion of cash for Delaware’s 21st Century Fund, which the state describes as a funder of “environmental, facility, stewardship, interpretation, environmental justice, and youth & veteran conservation corps projects in State Parks.”
All in all, if the deal goes through US Wind will be on the hook for $40 million in community benefits projects over 20 years.
…And That’s Just For Starters
This magnificent display of wind-supported riches could help offshore wind advocates beat back the opposition when the time comes for Delaware to plant its own “steel in the water.”
Delaware is still the only northeast Atlantic state without an offshore wind plan, but state lawmakers have taken steps to fix that.
As reported by WHYY public radio in August, new state legislation that supports clean energy development should help smooth the offshore waters, just in time for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to propose a new offshore lease sale for two areas off the coasts of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. All together, BOEM estimates that the two areas have the potential to power the equivalent of 2.2 million homes.
BOEM announced the proposed sale on December 11. Apparently one area is to be shared between Delaware and Maryland, the 101,43-acre A-2 site about 26.4 nautical miles from Delaware Bay. The other area, C-1, sprawls over 176,505 acres approximately 35 nautical miles from the Chesapeake Bay.
BOEM plans to open up the areas for bids in 2024 following a public comment period, so hold on to your hats.
Follow me @tinamcasey on Bluesky, Threads, Post, and LinkedIn.
Image: A 35-mile cable will connect an offshore wind farm in Maryland to a power plant in Delaware (courtesy of US Wind).