Report says when accounting for climate and health, wind power is cheaper for Delaware

Delaware is rare on the East Coast for having no offshore wind power. A new report commissioned by the state finds it would be cost-effective.

Wind turbines are seen up close and in the distance in the ocean.

In this Aug. 15, 2016 file photo, three of Deepwater Wind's five turbines stand in the water off Block Island, R.I, the nation's first offshore wind farm. Deepwater Wind said Wednesday, May 30, 2018, it will create a new 400-megawatt wind farm south of Martha's Vineyard that will be 10 times the size of its Block Island project. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

Delaware is rare among coastal Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states in that it has no offshore wind projects planned or built. But a new report commissioned by the state shows offshore wind power would be cost-effective.

Researchers compared the cost of offshore wind power to that of the state’s current electricity mix — which comes mainly from natural gas. They found that an 800-megawatt wind project started today off Delaware’s coast would produce power that’s in the cost range of the mix utilities in the state currently buy.

But if you account for the health and climate costs of fossil fuels, offshore wind looks even better.

“The wind project we could start today would be less than half the cost of the market price of electricity, plus those environmental and health costs,” said Willett Kempton, professor in the University of Delaware’s School of Marine Science and Policy and one of the report’s authors.

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The report, which the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control commissioned from UD’s Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, also recommends ways Delaware can keep the cost of offshore wind down — such as pushing for more wind lease areas off Delaware’s coast, or working together with Maryland on a single transmission corridor for projects serving both states.

Delaware has set a target of sourcing 40% renewable energy by 2035. It would only take three 800-megawatt offshore wind projects to power the entire state.

Kempton says the report could help Delaware move toward investing in offshore wind, because it offers a “menu” of procurement options and policies, with associated costs and benefits.

“This is a catching-up exercise, if the state wants to use it,” he said.

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