FENWICK ISLAND – Five coastal towns are exploring a package from US Wind that could bring $10 million in financial benefits over a 20-year period.
Late last week, US Wind formally presented the Delaware Association of Coastal Towns (ACT) with a package of community benefits for coastal residents. Five communities – Henlopen Acres, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach and South Bethany – will now begin to evaluate the offer through a series of public meetings.
“We expect to deliver clean offshore wind power to the Delmarva region for a long time,” said Jeffrey Grybowski, US Wind CEO. “As a member of this community, we believe it’s important to do what we can to help it thrive. These coastal towns are important to the state of Delaware and beloved by those who enjoy them. US Wind is committed to contributing to their continued health and resilience.”
As presented in a community benefits agreement shared last week, each of the five towns would receive $2 million over a 20-year period, paid in $100,000 increments. Officials say the funds would only begin if the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) approves the projects and the state authorizes a lease agreement with US Wind to bring underground cables onshore at 3Rs Beach.
For towns like Henlopen Acres, the benefits package could provide significant funding for capital projects. Mayor Joni Reich said the Board of Commissioners is set to review the agreement at its Jan. 12 meeting.
“The amount of funding being offered is very significant for a town of our size which has an annual budget of $1.1 million,” she said. “If our Commissioners decide to participate in the Agreement, we would determine how to use the funds as part of the regular annual budget process. Possible uses might be the periodic dredging of our marina (which last cost $170,000 in 2022) and capital improvements to improve drainage and reduce flooding.”
Reich added that Henlopen Acres would not normally be involved in federal projects over which it has no control.
“However, at the same time, since the windfarm will be located off the Delaware shore, I think local officials should be aware and informed on what the project entails and consider possible ways for it to benefit their local community if ultimately approved,” she said.
It should be noted that two ACT members, Lewes and Fenwick Island, are not listed in the agreement presented last week.
In a statement issued last Friday, Fenwick Mayor Natalie Magdeburger said the town had declined to participate in the community benefits package. In September of 2022, the town council voted unanimously to not pay dues toward ACT’s hiring of a consultant to interact with various offshore wind companies.
“Fenwick declined to be involved with hiring a consultant to negotiate a community benefits package with the wind farm companies,” she said. “We believed as advocates for our community we need to be able to speak freely, openly and without restriction to question the wisdom of moving forward with wind farms off our coast.”
Magdeburger said that while Fenwick embraces green energy, it wanted answers to three questions – what the proposed wind farms would do to the marine environment, how the wind turbines would affect tourism and property values, and how wind farms would impact public safety.
“Green energy needs to be part of our future; however, an alternative that has these unanswered serious questions still swirling around the project should be carefully and thoroughly studied in a scientific manner by unbiased gatekeepers,” she said. “There is a lot of money being spread around by the wind farm companies, ultimately paid for by the consumers, to silence the critics. Let’s not let that money get in the way of the truth. As advocates for our community, Fenwick believes our future deserves real answers to these questions before we commit to forever altering the pristine nature of our ocean environment.”
US Wind controls the rights to an 80,000-acre lease area located off the coast of Delmarva, which is able to support approximately 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy. BOEM recently issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement assessing the potential impacts from developing the lease area, and US Wind’s plans to mitigate or avoid those impacts.
BOEM is expected to issue a decision to approve or disapprove those plans by the fourth quarter of 2024.
US Wind has two contracted projects – MarWin and Momentum Wind – able to deliver almost 1,100 megawatts of clean energy, and excess capacity in the lease area to accommodate a third, undefined project.
US Wind reports the community benefits package includes a stream of annual payments over twenty years, worth $2 million to each town.
The payments would begin if and when US Wind begins construction on its first project, MarWin.
“We understand that BOEM will be reviewing the Environmental Impact Statement for the project over the next year in 2024 and determining if the project should proceed or in what fashion,” Reich said.