At one time, Delaware was a leader in offshore wind power, with the General Assembly approving the first-in-the-nation contract to a developer to build an offshore wind farm and deliver power to Delaware utilities all the way back in 2008.
In the 14 years that have ensued, that agreement to purchase power from an offshore wind farm has expired, and the offshore area reserved for it has been sold to other companies. In the meantime, offshore wind technology has leapt forward and the cost of power from offshore wind has dropped dramatically (less than half the cost of 2008).
All of Delaware’s Atlantic Coast neighbors have set targets for offshore wind for their states, and their utilities have signed contracts for power. Plus, as of last year, Delaware has a renewable-energy goal of 40%, which will be difficult to meet without offshore wind.
Is it time for Delaware to reconsider? Or should we pass into the offshore wind background?
The Special Initiative on Offshore Wind (SIOW) — based at the University of Delaware — is currently developing a study that will provide information to the state that to start discussion within Delaware whether to initiate an offshore wind-procurement process and bring Delaware back into the offshore wind conversation. Drawing on more than a decade of experience and working with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), the study has the objectives of:
The study will be presented to the Delaware state legislature by late February. We hope the information provides data and options for the state to make informed decisions.
One motivation of other East Coast states has been to meet clean-energy or carbon goals. Another has been associated local economic-development benefits of this burgeoning new industry. An SIOW report from last fall shows a total $109 billion revenue opportunity to businesses in the offshore wind power supply chain over the next decade.
Examples of these economic-development opportunities are already a reality. Just across the Delaware River, the port of Paulsboro, New Jersey, is working with a steel fabricator who will host the country’s first offshore wind monopile manufacturing facility (for the huge underwater support structures), hosting 350 permanent skilled jobs and revitalizing that port city. Just a few miles farther south down the river, New Jersey is building a large deployment port for shipping out the turbines. Maryland is working with several companies to build a manufacturing port at Sparrows Point, with two large component parts to be built there.
The timing is good for a Delaware decision to participate from a national perspective. President Joe Biden has announced an ambitious, achievable goal for offshore wind (30 gigawatts, the equivalent power capacity of 30 nuclear reactors) by 2030 and launched an initiative to make that happen by his agencies. The Senate, with the initiative of our Democratic Sen. Tom Carper, has passed an investment tax credit especially for offshore wind, expiring by 2025, substantially lowering the cost of power for projects started by then.
To support the Biden 30 GW target, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the federal regulator who controls offshore wind, oil and gas leasing, is planning to add additional offshore wind areas for potential leasing off the coast of Delaware (see map). More offshore wind energy areas increase competition among developers and is another factor potentially lowering the price for any Delaware contract.
This month, BOEM will advance the discussion in its Central Atlantic Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force meeting to designate wind energy areas off of Delaware from the “call for nominations” area, outlined in red. You can learn more about the process and get involved by attending the upcoming public meeting, held virtually on Feb. 16. You can learn more about the meeting and register on BOEM’s website: boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/central-atlantic-activities.
Willett Kempton is a technical adviser to the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, an independent policy think tank at the University of Delaware. He also is a professor in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean & Environment and in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering. Kris Ohleth is the director of SIOW. For more information on their approach and links to their publications, visit offshorewindpower.org.