Offshore Energy Plan Gains Momentum

OCEAN CITY- The potential for offshore wind farms of the coast of the resort and throughout the mid-Atlantic moved closer to becoming a reality this week with two separate significant events including an agreement to cooperate between the three states on Delmarva and a new partner for the company hoping to develop the alternative energy.

On Monday, Bluewater Wind, the alternative energy company with an offshore wind farm project already well underway in Delaware and a conceptual plan for a second off the coast of Ocean City, announced it had been acquired by NRG Energy Inc., a major player in energy production and distribution in the region. On Tuesday, the governors of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia agreed on a tri-state partnership for the deployment of offshore wind energy in the mid-Atlantic coastal region with the signing of an important Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Viewed individually, each event represents a gentle nudge in the direction of future wind farms off the mid-Atlantic coast. Together, however, they represent a significant move toward the development of the alternative energy source in the three states that comprise Delmarva. First and foremost, the MOU agreed upon by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Delaware Governor Jack Markell and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine on Tuesday creates a formal partnership that could pull together the region’s significant offshore wind resources.

“No one state will be able to do this independently of the other states in the region,” said Bluewater Wind’s Dave Blazer. “There will have to be some spillover. It’s a pretty exciting development in this effort and should be beneficial for the region as a whole.”

Blazer explained the MOU essentially opens the door for the three states to partner and pool its collective resources on things like economic development, research and development and job training, for example. O’Malley agreed the MOU represents a significant step in the collaborative effort to develop offshore wind resources off the coast of the three states.

“Our states share many common resources and opportunities,” he said. “This collaboration will allow us to take full advantage of these opportunities and pool our collective abilities for not only a smart, green and growing Maryland, but a cleaner, more sustainable region as well.”

Bluewater Wind is already well underway with the effort to develop an offshore wind farm off the coast of Delaware. The company has a 25-year, 200-megawatt power purchase agreement with Delmarva Power and Light that has already been approved by the Delaware Public Service Commission as well as other state agencies.

In Maryland, the effort is not as far along in the process although there have been several formal discussions about the possibility of as many as 200 wind turbines about 12-17 miles off the coast of Ocean City. Thus far, the discussions have been largely conceptual and the one sticking point for local officials has been the potential aesthetic impact. Town officials have been quick to point out the turbines, which could measure 300 feet, would be taller than the tallest buildings in the resort, but proponents argue they would only be visible on the clearest of days and, even then, would appear about the size of one’s thumbnail.

The effort to develop the wind farms off the coast of the resort appeared to gain some momentum earlier this fall when the Maryland Energy Commission issued a “Request for Expressions of Interest and Information” in an effort to gage public and private interest in the proposal. Blazer said the request signifies a renewed effort for wind farms off the coast of the state.

“Maryland is starting to accelerate its efforts somewhat,” he said. “There’s a lot going on all the sudden. It’s like dominos. We’ll need about 100 to fall to make this a reality, but at least there are some now in place and ready to fall.”

Meanwhile, Virginia is probably the farthest behind among the three states involved in the MOU, but there is a willingness to explore the potential there.

“With our extensive coastline and highly educated workforce, Virginia is particularly well-suited to explore offshore wind energy opportunities,” said Kaine this week. “In these tough economic times, it’s more important than ever that we invest in renewable energy sources that will create jobs and provide cleaner, more affordable energy for our families and communities.”

While the three-state MOU represents significant progress in the effort to develop wind energy off the mid-Atlantic coast, the acquisition of Bluewater Wind by NRG Energy is no less important. NRG is an energy giant in the region with power plants in Dover and Vienna, and it acquisition of Bluewater represents stability for the alternative energy company.

“The acquisition by NRG is excellent news for Bluewater,” said Blazer. “Our former parent company ran into a little economic difficulty and it really hamstrung our efforts somewhat. With NRG on board, we should be able to accelerate our efforts.”