Peggy Schultz is a co-facilitator for People for Offshore Wind Energy Resources.
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 landmark Climate Change Solutions Act signed into law Aug. 3.
Of special interest to Delawareans is the 101,167-acre wind energy area 26 nautical miles off the Delaware Bay and the 78,285-acre area 23 nautical miles off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland — nearly 180,000 acres. A similar location off the coast of Virginia makes up the other half of the total newly proposed lease area.
Though 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 the bureau says will provide enough space for 4-8 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, which gives us 2-4 GW. That sounds like a lot, right? Plenty for all three states, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey, right?
Maryland alone has an offshore wind goal of 8.5 GW. New Jersey’s offshore wind goal is 11 GW. 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. Just one 800-megawatt offshore wind project could supply Delaware with 28% of its energy needs. So, for argument’s sake, let’s add a modest 2 GW as Delaware’s goal. That brings the total need for the tri-state area to 21.5 GW of offshore wind power. The 2-4 GW’s worth of ocean space proposed by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management begins to look fairly scanty.
Even adding onto this 2-4 GW the excess capacity of both the US Wind and Ørsted Maryland projects underway now off Delaware’s coast (1.8 GW and a bit less than 1 GW, respectively), we arrive at a new total of available offshore wind development potential of only 4.8-6.8 GW. That’s just 4.8-6.8 GW to serve a projected need of 21.5 GW. This clearly represents an inadequate provision for the current requirements.
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 (scarcity leads to higher lease costs which leads to higher rate payer costs).
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.
Of course, we recognize that sites east of the current sites and then even farther out, off the continental shelf, will probably be designated in the future. The sites farthest out will undoubtedly require floating turbines, a technology that will cost more but will not only be out of view and interfere less with ocean uses closer to shore but will be in higher wind speed locations. The biggest hang-up here may be in timing. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management hasn’t even begun to start the public process of examining such areas. These farther-out sites may not be available when the states are ready to move, impeding both economic development and climate mitigation goals.
The 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 Maryland/Delaware/New Jersey region in the 21.5-GW range, a 4.8-6.8-GW space will not begin to meet the need.
Readers are encouraged to add their supportive voices in two ways:
Together, we can make a difference!