Wind Farm Developer Drops Delaware State Park Plan

Wind Farm Developer Drops Delaware State Park Plan
Fenwick Island State Park is pictured from an elevated perspective. Photo courtesy of DNREC

FENWICK ISLAND — The developer of an offshore wind farm will not move forward with an interconnection facility at Fenwick Island State Park after further evaluation of the proposed area.

Ørsted – the developer of the Skipjack wind farm project just off the coast – announced it has notified the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) it will no longer pursue plans to build an interconnection facility at Fenwick Island State Park, according to a press release issued Friday.

Following the completion of more thorough evaluations of the area proposed for the facility, Ørsted has determined that a large portion of the site is comprised of undisturbed wetlands. Accordingly, Ørsted has notified DNREC that it will no longer pursue plans to build the interconnection facility at Fenwick Island State Park as initially proposed.

“Constructing an interconnection facility on a site with such an extensive presence of undisturbed wetlands runs contrary to Ørsted’s deeply-held commitment to building our business sustainably,” said Brady Walker, mid-Atlantic market manager for Ørsted. “The Skipjack Wind Farm will deliver significant environmental and economic benefits to the Delmarva region, from good-paying jobs to renewable energy for tens of thousands of homes. However, Ørsted is committed to constructing the wind farm and associated infrastructure in a way that seeks to mitigate potential adverse impacts on local ecosystems and communities.”

Last October, the DNREC Division of Parks & Recreation announced a proposal which, if approved, would allow Ørsted to construct an onshore power transmission facility at Fenwick Island State Park in exchange for millions of dollars in park improvements, including new bathrooms, a pedestrian overpass and additional parking, to name a few. The announcement last fall came months after Ørsted entered into a non-binding memorandum of understanding with DNREC for the project.

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Ørsted is one of the two companies holding permits for offshore wind energy farms off the coast. While its Skipjack wind farm project is considered a Maryland project – going through the Maryland Public Service Commission for regulatory approval – Ørsted must bring its transmission lines ashore and has targeted the state park as a future home for the interconnection facility.

But since the state’s announcement on the proposed partnership, Fenwick officials and residents have been vocal with their objections to the interconnection facility. In December, for example, the town council approved a resolution opposing the project.

“It is important the park project and the offshore wind project be thoroughly reviewed and studied to ensure it is in the best interest of the environment, our economic vitality, and the quality of life we cherish,” the resolution reads. “The Council is concerned with the substation location in an environmentally sensitive area and with the distance of the wind turbines to Fenwick Island shores. The Town Council requests and desires input into any future revisions of the park plans, substation plans and windfarm plans. The Town Council requests that all windfarms be located so they are not visible from the Town of Fenwick Island shorelines.”

In a statement Friday, Walker said Ørsted will soon announce an alternative site for its interconnection facility.

“We are grateful to DNREC leadership and staff for their diligent work and prolonged collaboration on this proposal,” he said. “We know they share our commitment to protecting Delaware’s pristine wetlands. As Ørsted pursues an alternative interconnection site, we look forward to continued discussions with DNREC and other stakeholders in the region to complete a project Delmarva residents can be proud of. We hope to make an announcement on our alternative interconnection site in the near future.”

DNREC Department Spokesman Michael Globetti said this week the company’s decision came after extensive research.

“There has been an understanding since the proposal was first made that significant negative impact to the environment, including wetlands at Fenwick Island State Park would not be acceptable to DNREC or to Orsted,” he said. “As the company further researched and planned the possible facility within the park, it responsibly realized that the likely wetland impact would not be acceptable … No specific alternate proposal has been made. As with Fenwick, any requested use of state land for an interconnection would require the state’s agreement to begin planning it. Any interconnection within Delaware, whether on state or private land, would be subject to environmental and regulatory permitting process by DNREC and other agencies with considerable public input.”

The Skipjack Wind Farm is a 120-megawatt offshore wind farm under development 19 miles off the Maryland-Delaware coast. The project is expected to create thousands of jobs in the Delmarva region and generate enough clean energy to power 35,000 homes.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.