In 2018, Governor Carney convened an Offshore Wind Working Group composed of very capable people from across a spectrum of energy perspectives. They were tasked to consider whether the state government should mandate the use of offshore wind. The conclusion was offshore wind was too expensive but left the door open to future consideration compared to other generation sources.
Now the University of Delaware (UD) Center for Research in Wind (specializing in offshore wind) has issued two new reports.
No surprise that the UD reports state offshore wind is now competitively priced, and there is a shortage of ports to support planned offshore wind development. Specific recommendations in the UD reports suggest Delaware mandate an 800 MW wind project and develop a 360 acre port for staging and assembling wind turbines. Both UD reports are seriously flawed and ignore Carney’s Offshore Wind Working Group requirement that offshore wind option be compared to equivalent options such as onshore wind and solar.
Offshore wind is still too expensive, and there are enough ports already planned to support likely demand.
CRI’s recent analysis shows electricity prices from offshore wind will be 3.5 to 5.7 times higher than current wholesale prices and other options including new onshore wind, solar, or natural gas generation. An 800 MW project may raise residential electric rates by $400 to $545 a year and could add thousands of dollars a year to electric bills for large commercial and industrial customers. This is not surprising as offshore oil drilling platforms also cost about four times as much as onshore wells, even after a hundred years of development. Offshore turbines and wells need to withstand high winds, pounding waves, fast currents, and corroding salt.
The UD report on ports to support staging and assembly of wind turbines summarizes existing port construction plans.
It also compares the number of acres to the number required to support a demand forecast based on east coast state commitments. The conclusion is that 545 acres of port space will be required, and there may only be 200 acres available. The UD report suggests a 360 acre port in Delaware would fill the void.
The primary flaw is the UD report authors assume only three of six already planned ports will open. The report also misses two additional planned ports in Baltimore, MD, and Bridgeport, CT. When all eight ports are considered, they total 570 acres meeting the UD demand forecast without a new port in Delaware.
What has happened is wind project developers have promised port upgrades as economic development sweeteners to states that approve their projects.
Without a mandate and subsidies for a high-priced offshore wind project in Delaware, there is no drive for a port in the state. However, both a mandated wind project and a Delaware port have been long-term objectives of the UD’s Center for Research in Wind. Apparently, that vision has resulted in the production of biased and seriously flawed reports. The recommendations of UD’s reports should be ignored.