Environmental advocates: Position Delaware for offshore wind power


Beth Chajes is the Delaware state coordinator for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Alan Greenglass is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Alliance for Climate and Health. Mark Nardone is director of advocacy for the Delaware Nature Society. Peggy Schultz represents People for Offshore Wind Energy Resources Delaware. Dustyn Thompson is the director of the Sierra Club’s Delaware chapter.

Delaware is the only coastal state between North Carolina and Maine without an offshore wind project in the works. Our neighbors, especially New Jersey, have declared sizable offshore wind energy goals, while up and down the coast, developers have leased most of the available offshore wind areas — federally designated sites with steady winds where power-generating turbines can be placed with minimal impact to wildlife, the marine environment, shipping routes, commercial fishing or national defense.

With several opportunities for offshore wind development off our coast — and with guidelines laid out in the proposed Energy Solutions Act of 2024 — we are on our way to creating an offshore wind project that will work for Delaware.

The need should be obvious. Delaware is not a power-generating state. Eighty percent of our energy is created elsewhere, mainly by burning fossil fuels. Those plants, as a class, are among the largest emitters of climate-changing carbon dioxide and localized particulate pollution. Both pose significant risk to human health.

Offshore wind is a powerful antidote. The Climate Change Solutions Act, signed by Gov. John Carney last year, acknowledges that we cannot meet our goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 without a significant source of clean energy. Among the available technologies, nothing comes close to offshore wind’s potential. A project of 800 megawatts could supply more than a quarter of our current energy needs.

Members of an energy stakeholders group, convened by Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, over the past two years, reviewed the newly proposed Energy Solutions Act on March 28. The group, a key influence on state energy policy, includes representatives of Delaware’s four electric companies, government agencies, environmental groups and businesses — plus opponents of offshore wind with known connections to the fossil fuel industry.

The bill directs the Delaware State Energy Office to design a solicitation for one or more offshore wind contracts from a qualified offshore wind project of 800-1,200 megawatts. The bill also allows the office to work with other states to create a joint solicitation if it chooses — a concept some advocacy groups consider key to speeding approval and development of offshore wind along the coast.

Once the solicitation is issued, offshore wind companies can submit bids for a project. The Energy Solutions Act also specifies a process and terms for evaluating bids. Because the cost of energy is foremost in most Delawareans’ minds, the bill ensures that costs are highly competitive with other clean energy sources and the rates Delmarva customers now pay for energy.

The bill does this by requiring that all bids meet a benchmark price. If the benchmark is met, the State Energy Office can begin to evaluate other proposed bid criteria, such as workforce development and economic benefits. The bill would also ensure other checks and balances on the design of the solicitation and review of bids. The SEO’s solicitation must be reviewed by other state agencies, including the Renewable Energy Taskforce and the Public Service Commission. The commission must also review and approve any offshore wind contracts proposed by the State Energy Office.

We have learned much from the experiences of states that preceded us on offshore wind. Delawareans can trust this bill to control costs, as we move toward a cleaner energy future.

Not pursuing offshore wind energy is not an option. As the state with the lowest mean elevation, we are exceptionally vulnerable to rising sea levels, storms and other impacts of climate change. We’re pouring millions of dollars into preparing for and recovering from these impacts, as well as medical care for health conditions caused or exacerbated by pollution from burning fossil fuels.

The Delaware Energy Solutions Act of 2024 presents us a historic opportunity to reduce pollution, while sustaining our favorable electric rates and building economic opportunity. Tell your representative and senator that you support the bill; that they should, too; and that they should act swiftly, while a nearby wind energy area is available for a developer who can meet our needs. Let’s pave the way for a better, safer, healthier future for Delaware on our terms.

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at civiltalk@iniusa.org.

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