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U.S. Wind project plans to come ashore in Delaware

Katie Tabeling
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The first American wind farm started operations in 2017 in Block Island, Rhode Island. Two Maryland projects are on their way through the process. | PHOTO COURTESY OF UNSPLASHED/SHAUN DAKIN

BETHANY BEACH — While Ørsted is still developing its plans to file with federal regulators for an even larger wind farm, a second wind energy company is ready for public review for its plans — which include landing transmission lines at a smaller Delaware beach.

U.S. Wind, a subsidiary of Italian renewable energy development company Renexia SpA, acquired one of the two federal wind lease areas off the coast of Ocean City, Md., in 2014. Today, the company is looking to build up to 76 turbines in the MarWind Project and the Momentum Wind Project which will generate 1,100 megawatts of power. The closest turbine will be 17 miles away from Bethany Beach.

Earlier this summer, the renewable energy company filed a proposal with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to bring its energy export cables ashore at either 3R Beach or Tower Road in the Delaware Seashore Park. From there, the cable will travel through the Indian River Bay and connect to the existing Indian River Substation through horizontal directional drilling.

The BOEM will conduct an environmental review of the U.S. Wind’s construction and operations plan, which is expected to end in 2024. Construction is slated to begin that year, with offshore construction beginning in 2025.

U.S. Wind Delaware Development Manager Mike Dunmyer met with the Bethany Beach town council in June to discuss the project in more detail, as well as how Sussex County may benefit from the project.

“If you cross that Maryland-Delaware line, there are no substations within the area that are greater than 138 kilovolts capacity, and that’s not enough for us to be able to manage the energy we will be bringing on shore,” Dunmyer said at the June 21 meeting.

In a later email, U.S. Wind Spokeswoman Nancy Sopka told the Delaware Business Times that Delaware will benefit from the project with clean energy production, grid resiliency, and job creation. The project will facilitate significant upgrades to the transmission system and “ improve reliability of the existing transmission infrastructure” to accommodate delivery of energy from the wind farm.

“We have also already begun to work with Delaware businesses, labor organizations, and workforce development groups to establish a robust regional supply chain,” Sopko added. “All of these efforts will require a skilled workforce, sourced locally from Delaware wherever possible.”

The Indian River Substation in Dagsboro is already owned by Delmarva Power, although U.S. Wind wrote in its proposal that it expects it would be “upgraded and expanded as required as the contracted generating capacity of the project is increased.” 

Back in 2017, the Maryland Public Service Commission approved two wind farm projects that were fueled by requests for proposals by the BOEM for such projects four years previous. Both Skipjack and U.S. Wind were approved for between 12 to 15 miles off Ocean City, Md., and have been working their way through the regulatory process since, albeit hampered by COVID-19 pandemic related delays and exploring new landfall options.

But while the Skipjack project has caught Delawareans’ interest and criticism due to its proximity and earlier proposals to lease land at a state park, the U.S. Wind project has stayed out of the spotlight in the First State. At least until this summer, when the renewable energy company filed plans with the BOEM.

The construction and operating plan filed with federal officials seeks to permit the lease area of 2,000 megawatts of power. U.S. Wind has long planned the MarWin Project. But after Maryland’s Clean Energy Job Act of 2019, the Maryland Public Service Commission solicited bids to expand the wind farms that were previously approved.

U.S. Wind’s second project, Momentum Wind, was approved by Maryland regulators in late 2021, expanding the wind farm by 800 megawatts and setting a rate of $54.17 per megawatt hour for 20 years. In total, the company is planning to build 120 turbines in all, if the BOEM approves the permit, which will generate 2,000 megawatts of power.

The proposal filed with the BOEM outlines running four cables from dunes at 3R Beach and under wetlands to the substation. In addition, U.S. Wind also proposes building two additional substations near the Indian River Substation, within a half mile or near other alternative substations in Milford or in Cool Spring.

Stressing the Delaware impact of this project,  Dunmyer told Bethany Beach officials that U.S Wind will be “here for 35 to 40 years or more,” and aims to be a part of the local community. In terms of a direct impact, he added that locals would likely be using the energy, although Maryland would claim the renewable energy credits for the project.

But he also added there could be potential job gains in terms of local training initiatives, and more employees may come to the First State once work begins. 

“Once the wind farm is operational, maintenance facilities will be out of Ocean City, and if Delaware develops their own procurement program, there may be some employees here,” he added. “We’ve made partnerships with the Delaware Prosperity Partnership and the Center for Inland Bays, and we’d certainly love to do more of that.”

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