Delaware still has hope for offshore wind farm

The expiration date is approaching for companies to take advantage of federal renewable energy incentives and state leaders in Delaware are urging Congress to extend the credits.

On December 31, the production tax credit and the investment tax credit for offshore wind power are set to expire, making the state’s future in alternative energy more uncertain.

Last year, the state lost out on Bluewater Wind’s proposed wind farm off the southern Delaware coast after NRG Energy announced that it had not found a buyer.

“When the proposal for Bluewater Wind project came forward in Delaware, it was legitimately the choice that we made that we’re going to pursue. It moved along to the point where we had a power purchase agreement which is unique to the industry, to the country, a power purchase agreement was and still is, the most permissible way to ensure that we can afford to move forward with this,” said Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark South). “But, one of the things that stepped it away was the failure of the federal government to guarantee a certain amount of incentive, product credit, tax credit incentives for any amount of time and what it did was it destroyed investor confidence.”

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Today, Rep. Kowalko met with Environment America, a nationwide federation made up of 29 state-based environmental advocacy groups, to discuss their most recent report on the benefits of wind-based energy.

The advocacy’s latest report quantifies the benefits of current wind-power production and projects the benefits of wind power over the next four years if growth remains the same.

“Our current power generation from wind energy in America displaces as much global warming as the equivalent of taking 13 million cars off the road,” explained Meredith Epstein, energy associate with Environment America. “If development of wind energy continues at a pace comparable to that in recent years, by the year 2016, we could reduce global pollution by taking as much as 11 million cars off the road.”

The latest report also details the health benefits such as reducing allergy-causing pollution in the air and water conservation.

“In the United States, more fresh water is used to cool power plants than for any other purpose,” said Epstein. “Our country’s current wind power saves enough water to meet the needs of a city the size of Boston. If wind power continues to grow at this rate over the next few years, we can meet the water needs of an additional 600,000 Americans.

University of Delaware Professor Jeremy Firestone was at the meeting and further explained the water usage for energy in the state.

“Water withdrawn by fossil fuels and nuclear power plants, what is referred to as cooling water, is actually public water,” explained Firestone. “Around here it’s withdrawn from the Delaware River and the Delaware Bay. This public water provides free services to the owners of those private plants. Indeed, they use the public’s resources to cool those plants but they do not pay us for the privilege. The free use of the public’s water is one of the many ways in which we subsidize the fossil fuel and nuclear industries.”

He added that a study done by UD graduate students estimated that about four billion gallons of water are withdrawn for thermal electric cooling from the Delaware estuary each day and one 500 megawatt wind farm would save approximately a billion gallons of water a year.

While experts outlined the numerous benefits of wind power, they explained that the momentum for investing in the renewable energy source is slowing down.

Rep. Kowalko said the looming fiscal cliff combined with opposition from the fossil fuel industry is making it less of a priority on the federal level.

“A lot of the opposition is generated by the fossil fuel industry,” said Kowalko. “They see alternative or renewable energy as a displacement of their revenue. I don’t think it’s a valid reason, but they have the money and that’s what influences politics is who has the most money.”

Rep. Kowalko added that offshore wind power in Delaware is still very much a possibility as long as the “playing field” is leveled for alternative energy by extending the offshore wind power energy incentives.

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