Some Facts About Orsteds Wind Farm Project Off The Coast Of Delaware and The Fenwick Island State Park Proposed Project
I have been following this project for years, attending all the work shops and meetings that I can bear. One thing I always follow closely is social media posts, because you can learn so much, in this case not really. There is an awful lot of misinformation based on assumptions and skewed studies. So I decided to go to the source, I asked Joy Weber, Development Manager for Orsted US Offshore Wind, to chat with me about the many questions that everyone is asking.
If you want to know the meat of an issue go to the source, not your buddy who thinks he knows what he is talking about after his third beer. I have seen enough of that online about this project, the Skipjack Wind Farm.
For starters, and just so you know, I am a hundred percent for these wind turbine farms, for several reasons. Mainly sustainable energy is a must in our time. One day we will run out of fossil fuels, we are the pioneers of sustainable energy that will last well into the future. I’m talking centuries not just decades from now.
Another reason is obviously the fishing will be epic around these structures. That may be a little selfish of me for want of better fishing grounds, but it is a byproduct of putting any structure in the ocean. Now I need to buy a boat, I can’t cast that far.
The Block Island Wind Project has become a tourist attraction in and of itself. People want to see this new technology in action. Wind turbine selfies are a thing.
If you don’t know the difference between a windmill and a wind turbine, break out the google and do some research. We are not getting into general details here, this is about the actual facts for this specific project. I am also a hundred percent behind the Delaware State Park’s proposed project for Fenwick Island State Park something we are not going to cover in this, that horse has been beaten enough.
The interview was long and the questions I asked will be listed with answers below them. Big thanks to Joy Weber for taking this time and I suggest everyone go to the meeting at Indian River high School on November 19th at 6 PM with Representative Ron Grey and Senator Gerald Hocker. I am hoping this article and interview will help many gather some facts for this meeting and other meetings. Do some research on your own as well, you have that ability at your fingertips.
DSF … There is a transmission cable exposed from beach erosion up north at the Rhode Island Block Island Project. What is being done about that and do we have to worry about that issue here in Delaware?
Joy Weber … That is being taken care of through a process called HDD, Horizontal Direct Drilling. We will drill down and then out to the turbines, the same will happen for the project off your coast. This will prevent exposure from beach erosion. The lines between the turbines will be buried as well, nothing will be exposed or accessible.
DSF … Is there any concern for stray electricity affecting fish or the surrounding environment?
Joy Weber … No the cables are encased or armored, and they will be under the sea floor.
A side note … If you check out BOEM’s website there is a myriad of different types of transmission lines off the east coast already. BOEM is the Bureau Of Ocean Energy Management.
DSF … Many are worried about birds being killed by turbines is there is an issue with offshore wind turbines?
Joy Weber … Turbines do kill birds, offshore turbines kill less birds. Most wind farms are out of the migratory paths of birds for wind farm locations.
Side note … Look up Towerkill, cell towers and skyscrapers (tall glass window buildings) kill millions of birds a year. Then there are the feral and pet cats that kill and eat 3.7 billion birds a year.
DSF … There is a group that has started a Facebook page about saving the horseshoe crabs from these wind turbine farms, due to their location in the protected wintering grounds from Jersey to Maryland.
Joy Weber … Again we will be installing the transmission cables under the sea floor by HDD (drilling) or burying that will not affect the horseshoe crabs or the wintering grounds. We do not do construction in the winter, the horseshoe crabs will be much closer to shore by the time of year we do construction. Those grounds are for protection from over harvesting not an actual sanctuary as people seem to think. During their winter “hibernation” they do not go out as far as the wind farms location. We are required by BOEM with permitting to consider all the life we would affect.
DSF … Will the jobs created be Union jobs?
Joy Weber … Yes there will be union jobs, we do not have anything set in stone yet, such as PLA’s (Project Labor Agreement). We have been talking to the unions and these will be Maryland jobs since the fabrication facilities etc will be located in Maryland. First time projects like this always need labor with outside experts. Eventually that labor will transfer to the local job market with training and schooling. It is one of the economic impact advantages Maryland is getting for supporting this project.
DSF … Why bring the transmission cable into Fenwick State Park if this is a Maryland project? Weren’t you going to run it through the Indian River inlet to the power plant?
Joy Weber … The lease area owned by Orsted is much closer to Fenwick Island State Park. Bringing the transmission cable into that area is more economical for everyone. We were never going up the Indian River Inlet, that I believe was proposed by US Wind. We looked at several locations up and down the coast for this transmission line to come onto land.
DSF … One of the big questions or concerns of everyone on social media is that they think all of this power is going to Maryland only.
Joy Weber … That is a two fold answer, I can understand the confusion. The electrons or energy produced is going into the main power grid that everyone uses in Delmarva.
The renewable energy credits are going to Maryland for putting “skin in the game” so to speak as an economic impact in exchange for allowing us to build fabrication, maintenance, and operations facilities, as well as port upgrades to use the port in Ocean City,MD.
Delaware is benefiting with a new park facility and upgrades without putting anything into the project itself in exchange for a place to bring in the transmission line.
DSF … Are you worried about nor’easters and hurricanes?
Joy Weber … The foundations are built to withstand 500 year storms and we are confident hurricanes will not damage them.
DSF … What about oil leaks from lubricants used on the turbines?
Joy Weber … There is very little lubricant used, the wind turbines are not full of oil. We are required by the EPA, and BOEM to use environmentally friendly grease and lubricants.
DSF … Will the area be restricted to boaters, and anglers?
Joy Weber … No in fact the only time there will be restricted access is during construction. Otherwise anglers and even scuba divers are free to fish around the turbines. They just can’t tie up a boat to the actual turbines themselves. The turbines at Block Island have created a rather diverse reef ecosystem that thrives with fish, we expect the same to happen on this wind farm.
DSF … Speaking of reef ecosystems, will these wind turbines be on the same type of structure at Block Island, a kind of derrick like support system?
Joy Weber .. No these wind turbines will be mono-hulls and driven into the sea bed, like pylons on a pier. There will be rocks placed at the base of these mono-hulls to deal with scouring issues.
Side Note (DSF) … The rocks for scouring issues will make a incredible reef structure for Tautog and Seabass.
DSF … Aren’t these turbines incredibly expensive to build, almost more than they are worth?
Joy Weber … Advances in technology have been making these cheaper and cheaper to build. Granted nothing like this is cheap, but if you build a power plant, coal, gas, or nuclear, there are massive costs in those projects. Even power plant upgrades can be incredibly expensive, and necessary. Wind farms are the same.
DSF … There is concern that taking these wind turbines down after their “20 year lifespan” is incredibly expensive what plans does Orsted have for that issue?
Joy Weber … We are a power company, and like any company or business, we are responsible for our equipment, just like nuclear, gas, or coal power plant companies. Maryland also required Orsted, as part of our deal, to put aside money for that very project if and when it has to happen.
DSF … It is being said that this power is incredibly expensive and not worth producing?
Joy Weber … In the beginning of any of these projects the power is more costly, however as more turbines come online the costs decrease and are more competitive to existing systems (nuclear, coal, gas). Part of the economic development for Maryland is in exchange for the higher price of power. As more turbines are added to the wind farm the prices drop. As more wind farms are built along the east coast the price also drops.
DSF … The deal with Delaware State arks for Fenwick Island State Park, will there be upkeep money available for future maintenance of these new improvements?
Joy Weber … Yes, we will have a facility there to maintain for the transmission line.
I would like to thank Joy Weber from Orsted for taking the time to answer these questions. We talked for a couple of hours about this project and wind energy in general. One thing she told me that rings true. “I would like to leave my kids and grand kids a cleaner world” I think everyone can agree that we would all like the same thing.
I remember seeing a few posts online talking about how these wind farms are antiquated technology. I don’t believe modern technology is antiquated, it is the opposite. Granted windmills may be antiquated but these are turbines not windmills. I think some of the technology we rely on now is an antiquated system that needs some serious change, as well as the way people view new ideas and progress.
I hope this helps answer some of the questions and concerns I am seeing online daily. Again, do some research, the Google is just a keyboard stroke away. You can literally type in a question and get a huge list of answers or related subjects. Come to the meeting at Indian River High School this week and ask questions, everyone you would want to talk with is going to be present.
If anyone has a full copy of the Ceaser Rodney Institute’s tourism study on the Skipjack Wind Farm, everyone would like to check it out for themselves, instead of being told what they “think”.