FENWICK ISLAND – The organizers of an offshore wind symposium say they hope to educate the community on two projects located off Delaware’s coast.
On Friday, May 20, the Fenwick Island Environmental Committee will host its first Offshore Wind (OSW) Symposium. Held at Indian River High School, event co-chair Colleen Wilson said the symposium will feature presentations from US Wind and Ørsted representatives, as well as local and national experts on the environmental impacts of offshore wind.
“The committee felt that the community could benefit from learning more about the planned offshore wind projects and their impact on the local environment …,” she said. “Attendees will have an opportunity to have their questions answered by the speakers.”
Last fall, US Wind and Ørsted – the two companies that have obtained leases for proposed offshore wind projects off the coast – met with the Fenwick Island Town Council and town staff to share their views on the benefits offshore wind provide to the community and how the proposed projects would progress.
Wilson said it was at that time that the Fenwick Island Environmental Committee was asked to research offshore wind issues nationally, regionally and locally and report back to the town council with its findings.
“During the months from November through February, committee members reviewed OSW studies, participated in Zoom calls, attended the OSW presentation sponsored by the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce, reviewed lawsuits, consulted with experts in the field of alternative energies, contacted several communities and towns for their views on OSW and more,” she said.
As a result of that research, environmental committee members came before the town council in March with a resolution asking federal agencies to update visualizations and radar studies to reflect the larger turbines being proposed for wind projects off the coast of Delaware and to move offshore wind lease areas at least 30 miles offshore.
“The Fenwick Island Environmental Committee supports the use of clean, renewable energy as a part of a comprehensive plan to address climate change and U.S. energy needs,” Wilson said. “We are seeking support to ensure wind turbine sites are considered responsibly and sensibly in a way that protects our regional marine and migratory bird life, local fishing industry and numerous natural resources, as well as marine safety, and unobstructed viewshed.”
In addition to adopting the resolution, the town council also voted to hold an Environmental Committee Offshore Wind Symposium at Indian River High School.
The committee will host the free, public symposium next Friday, May 20, in the high school’s auditorium. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., with the event running from 6-8 p.m.
In 2017, the Maryland Public Service Commission approved offshore renewable energy credits for two projects – US Wind’s MarWin project and Ørsted’s Skipjack project – situated in an 80,000-acre Wind Energy Area off the coast.
While those projects are currently working through the review process with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the two companies have already applied for additional energy credits to complete second phases.
Ørsted’s Skipjack 1 project is expected to generate 120-megawatts of energy, while its Skipjack 2 project is expected to generate 846 megawatts. Similarly, US Wind’s MarWin project would include 22 turbines about 17 miles off the coast, while its proposed Momentum Wind project would include 82 turbines.
Ørsted reports its Skipjack offshore wind projects will generate clean, renewable energy to the Eastern Shore by powering 290,000 homes throughout the region. US Wind reports its MarWin project is expected to power more than 80,000 Maryland homes and support more than 3,000 local jobs.
This week, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) announced the two companies would be conducting research and collecting data in the coming months as they determine the best path forward for their wind projects. Both US Wind and Ørsted plan to update information collected in the Indian River Bay in 2016 and 2017, and to conduct geotechnical work in the Atlantic and at some land-based locations.
“Any project of this scope requires an extensive regulatory process, as well as considerable public input,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin. “Gathering the information is the first step.”
In 2019, Ørsted researched the possibility of using Fenwick Island State Park as a location for an interconnection facility. DNREC said it was later determined that the location was not environmentally feasible.
“We’ve heard the feedback of Delawareans who told us they want to be updated on offshore wind activities, including research,” Garvin said. “We want to ensure the public is aware of these activities and what the research entails.”
DNREC reports the research will include geotechnical investigations in the Atlantic and Indian River Bay, land-based geotechnical sampling at Delaware Seashore State Park and other work including data collection on wetlands, rare species and cultural resources.