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Orsted looking for new interconnection site

Katie Tabeling

Ørsted manages the first offshore wind farm in the United States, which includes five turbines about four miles off Block Island, Rhode Island seen here. The same company is looking to develop 12 turbines as a Maryland project, about 19 miles off Bethany Beach. | PHOTO C/O BLOCK ISLAND TIMES

FENWICK ISLAND — Ørsted, the Danish company developing the $720 million Skipjack Wind Farm, has dropped plans to build a controversial interconnection site at Fenwick Island State Park.

Last fall, DNREC and Ørsted struck a memorandum of understanding to lease 1.5 acres of land along the bay to build the interconnection facility, so cables can be connected into the power grid by drilling under the sand dunes. In exchange, the company agreed to fund $18 million in park improvements.

The deal between Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) was dropped after Ørsted realized a large section of the proposed site was wetlands. Developing on such a site would be contrary to the company’s sustainable energy mission, said Ørsted Mid-Atlantic Marketing Manager Brady Walker.

“Ørsted is committed to constructing the wind farm and associated infrastructure in a way that seeks to mitigate potential adverse impacts on local ecosystems and communities,” Walker said in a prepared statement. “We hope to make an announcement on an alternative site in the future.”

DNREC spokesman Michael Globetti told Delaware Business Times that from the start, it was made clear that “significant negative impacts to the environment” would not be acceptable to either the state or Ørsted.

The multinational power company hoped to be in operation by 2022, but that timeline was pushed back a full year due to a slower pace due to a prolonged study by U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on offshore wind.

“Ørsted is still committed to completing the Skipack Wind Farm by the end of 2023,” Walker said.

Skipjack, granted a federal offshore wind lease area and approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission, would feature some 800-feet-tall turbines – the largest on the market right now – about 19 miles off the coast of Bethany Beach. While the project touted eventually powering 35,000 homes in the Delmarva region, the renewable energy credits would go to Maryland.

However, Skipjack has also attracted criticism from some like the libertarian think-tank Caesar Rodney Institute about the negative impact it could have on the $2 billion tourism industry in Delaware. Caesar Rodney Institute Policy Director Dave Stevenson predicts it could cost $1 billion over the planned 20-year life of the project.

“Ørsted is already facing delays with the federal permitting process for another project off the coasts of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. That’s going to set the stage for the process here, and with  Ørsted back finding a site for the substation, there will be a long way to go before the turbines are built,” Stevenson said.

The Martha Vineyard’s project is developed by the Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avingrid Renewables, with no involvement with Ørsted, Ørsted  officials said.

Without the land lease in Fenwick Island and Ocean City, Maryland, denying rights to come ashore there, Ørsted is now looking for alternative locations.

“We look forward to continued discussions with DNREC and other stakeholders in the region to complete a project Delmarva resident can be proud of,” Walker said. “We hope to make an announcement on our alternative interconnection site in the near future.”

DNREC confirmed that there are no specific alternative proposals made yet. Like with Fenwick, any state land for interconnection would require the state’s agreement to begin planning it. Any interconnection site would be subject to environmental and regulatory permitting process by DNREC and other agencies with considerable public input.

-Katie Tabeling


Editor’s note: this article has been updated to include the information about the Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avingrid Renewables project.

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