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Ørsted announces bid to expand Skipjack wind farm

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BETHANY BEACH — While still seeking solutions to bring its Skipjack wind farm’s transmission line ashore, Ørsted is looking to place a second wind farm in the water nearby.

Ørsted announced Wednesday it had submitted a bid to the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) to develop “Skipjack Wind 2,” a proposal that would include 760 megawatts of energy. The Danish multinational green energy company is already developing 12 General Electric Haliade-X 12-megawatt turbines off the coast of Ocean City, Md.

The Skipjack Wind Farm is delayed until the second quarter of 2026 as Ørsted looks for an interconnection site. | PHOTO COURTESY GE
RENEWABLE ENERGY

Skipjack 2, if approved by Maryland regulators, will be in the same federal lease area as Skipjack 1, which is about 19 miles off the coast of Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island. Although the project is technically closer to Delaware than Maryland in federal waters, its energy production is being regulated by Maryland. 

The number of turbines in the second project is dependent on an award from the Maryland PSC and the size of the award, Ørsted representatives said.

“Ørsted is privileged to already be a long-term partner to the state of Maryland as it works to meet its offshore wind goals,” Ørsted Offshore North America CEO David Hardy said in a prepared statement. “We are proud to build, own, and operate wind farms across the world and will bring that same approach to Maryland.”

The proposed Skipjack expansion is buoyed by Maryland’s Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2019, which created more subsidies for renewable energy and tasked the state to facilitate at least 1,200 megawatts in “round two” offshore wind projects. The law set Maryland’s renewable energy goals of 50% or more by 2030.

The Maryland PSC put out a request for bids in December 2020, and the window for applications closed on June 21. The regulator cannot comment on other competing bids at this time. Consulting firm ICF Resources will review each application to determine “whether that application is administratively complete.”

After review, the bids will then proceed to a 180-day docket process which will end in December 2021, according to Maryland PSC Communications Director Tori Leonard.

“These at least 30-year commitments we are making to the state are designed to provide long-term benefits to all of the communities that will be home to our facilities,” Hardy added. “In continuing to deliver on our commitments now, and well into the future, we will ensure that Maryland’s offshore wind industry will thrive for decades to come.”

Back in 2013, Maryland lawmakers passed a bill mandating that a portion of the state’s renewable portfolio standard be fulfilled by 200 megawatts of  offshore wind. That kick-started the race for turbine developers to obtain offshore wind renewable energy credits (ORECs) to create wind farms in the federal lease areas off the coast near the Maryland-Delaware border.

Four years later, Deepwater Wind — later acquired by Orsted in 2018 for $510 million — was one of two offshore wind projects approved by Maryland regulators. Delaware has yet to make an official move on offshore wind since the Bluewater Wind project could not obtain financing, ending it in its infancy.

The Skipjack 1 project is expected to power about 40,000 homes in Maryland — more than the total number of homes in Ocean City, Md., alone — and contribute at least $200 million in Maryland economic investment. The project will also bring 1,400 jobs, about 910 through construction.

With more wind turbines slated to come to the waters shared by Ocean City, Delaware has yet to benefit directly from offshore wind projects. The First State may realize some of the subcontractor jobs during construction, due to its close proximity to the wind farm. 

Some of the energy will be used in Delaware’s homes, because the turbines will feed into the regional PJM electricity grid and will be used directly in Delaware’s resort towns. But none of the renewable energy credits will come to the First State.

Orsted officials claim that Skipjack 2, if approved, will power over 250,000 homes on the Delmarva peninsula. That would be six times the amount of homes from Skipjack 1, which is scheduled to come online by 2026.

Earlier this year, Gov. John Carney signed a law that bumped the state’s renewable energy mandate up to 40% by 2035 in hopes of incentivizing the market for green energy in Delaware.

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