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Offshore wind-energy bill moves forward

A fishing boat rests near an offshore wind farm. At least two wind-farm projects are approved or proposed for the waters of the Atlantic off the Maryland and Delaware coast.

Posted on June 25, 2024

Recalling the “Schoolhouse Rock” animated shorts from childhood — specifically as to how a bill becomes law — one may quickly realize that Senate Bill 265, the Delaware Energy Solutions Act, requires House of Representatives counterpart legislation to become law. The legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Stephanie Hansen, passed the Delaware Senate in late May but has more hurdles before it would be adopted.

Last week, on June 11, the Delaware House — comprising 41 representatives — moved the legislation forward as the House Environmental Committee voted to move the bill to the full assembly. There are only nine representatives on the House’s energy committee, and none are from this region. A vote is expected in this session of the General Assembly, possibly before a July recess.

Wind-power proponents and opponents were nearly equal in the testimony given last Tuesday in Dover.

State Rep. Ron Gray (R-38th) is opposed to the legislation.

“I am opposed to it, and there are still a lot of unknowns,” he said from the House floor this week.

“It has gotten through the House Energy Committee. I am going to be opposed to it, though I think it will probably pass the full House of Representatives,” said Gray.

“I wish we would look at other clean technology that could come forward, like small nuclear power,” said Gray of future clean-tech. “There seems to be a drive to get this bill through, and it’s a feel-good bill.”

“It will be twice as expensive as natural gas or even solar on land — which is more cost effective — and that is also green,” asserted Gray. “We are going into session right now, and the doors are closing. It is not on our agenda for today, and the bell is ringing for us to return to the General Assembly as I speak.”

Gray had also offered additional amendments, along with state Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-20th) to require wind tower lighting to account for airplane traffic, including from Dover Air Force Base, and to keep wind-power companies accountable for the removal of waste or wind-tower debris after the service life of the turbines is complete and wind farms are decommissioned.

“The bill facilitates a transition to carbon-free energy sources by preparing for offshore wind to be a significant element of Delaware’s energy future, if cost is competitive with other potential sources,” states the Senate bill. It calls for “increasing options for interconnecting renewable energy resources to the transmission grid. The bill authorizes the State Energy Office (SEO), with the approval of the Public Service Commission (PSC), to issue solicitations to procure offshore wind.”

“A solicitation can be for a project that serves only Delaware, or in coordination with other states, and authorizes procurement of at least 800 megawatts but not more than 1,200 megawatts of power to Delaware,” states the Hansen bill.

“We don’t support this bill, and not by a long shot,” said David T. Stevenson of the Caesar Rodney Institute’s (CRI’s) Center for Energy Competitiveness, which has been an opponent from the start. “This bill is not ready for prime time.” Stevenson said.

CRI expressed further concern about losing ocean lease sites for traditional fossil-fuel extraction in the future.

Emily Knearl, director of government relations of The Nature Conservancy’s Delaware chapter, urged the House members to vote in favor of SB 265 and advance the House bill.

“Delaware is unique, with its ocean environment and ability to provide sustainable offshore wind. Offshore wind will also reduce the severity of climate change and coastal flooding.”

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) supports “the rapid and sustainable development of offshore wind projects that avoid potential impacts to habitat and species, through the use of the best data available, mitigation strategies and engagement with key stakeholders,” according to its position paper.

“To reduce the impact of climate change, Delaware’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieve net-zero by 2050. We cannot meet the state emissions-reduction goal without offshore wind energy,” said the TNC testimony.

The Delaware Nature Society added its voice, with Mark Nardone submitting testimony last week: “We strongly support offshore wind. We believe oil and gas disrupts or destroys habitats and the drilling platforms change the sea beds and create permanent habitat loss.”

Shweta Arya, who has represented People for Offshore Wind Energy Resources (POWER) and works for the American Public Health Association, based in Wilmington, also offered testimony.

“I applaud Sen. Hansen and this courageous bill,” said Arya. “This legislation will help us combat climate change and foster a more energy-efficient path going forward. Even a single megawatt of production can help. Our coastal communities in Delaware can harness the power of wind for our state.”

According to DNREC: “The State has set a target of achieving 40 percent renewable energy by 2035. Increasing renewable energy in Delaware is also identified as a strategy in Delaware’s Climate Action Plan to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.”


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