Delaware’s lone wind turbine marks 5 year anniversary

 The state's lone commercially-sized wind turbine stands at UD's Lewes campus. (photo courtesy Univ. of Delaware)

The state's lone commercially-sized wind turbine stands at UD's Lewes campus. (photo courtesy Univ. of Delaware)

For five years, the University of Delaware’s wind turbine in Lewes has stood as a monument to what could have been along the waters off Delaware’s coast.

This summer, the University of Delaware’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes celebrated the fifth year of energy production from the wind turbine that stands on the western side of the Sussex County campus.

The 256-foot tower has generated 23.47 million kilowatt hours of electricity in the past five years. That’s enough to power about 108 homes every year for the past five years. The Lewes Board of Public Works has purchased 5.35 million kWh of surplus electricity.

“The turbine has performed splendidly, generating carbon-free energy for UD and the people of Lewes,” said Jeremy Firestone, UD professor and director of the Center for Carbon-free Power Integration.

While one turbine has generated lots of clean energy, displacing 17,500 metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere, just imagine what could have been.

Imagine the energy and environmental benefits of 150 turbines spinning 13 miles off the Delaware coast. That was the plan back in 2008.

That summer, Delmarva Power signed an agreement to purchase 200-megawatts of power from up to 150 turbines built off Delaware’s coast by Bluewater Wind. If all had gone according to plan, those turbines would have been in place by 2012. Delaware would have been several years into getting power via offshore wind by now, but it didn’t happen.

In 2009, Bluewater Wind was bought by NRG Energy, which had hoped to find an investment partner to fund the project. That effort was unsuccessful due in part to the decision by Congress to end loan guarantees for offshore wind. There were also big questions about the future of offshore wind tax credits beyond 2012.

By the end of 2011, the dream of Delaware becoming the first state to build an offshore wind farm was dead. Delmarva Power terminated its purchase agreement. NRG shuttered its Bluewater Wind offices.

This summer, construction started on the East Coast’s first offshore wind farm, but instead of another Delaware “first in the nation” claim, it’s Rhode Island taking the lead.

So while the University of Delaware celebrates the state’s lone commercially-sized wind turbine, just imagine what could have been.

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