United States

United States

Delaware test project awaits news of $4m funding

US Department of Energy decision due within days

Proponents of a test project planned for Atlantic waters offshore of Delaware could hear within days whether they have won $4m in funding from the US Department of Energy.

The Offshore Wind Innovation and Research Center, proposed by the University of Delaware and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is designed as a test site for new technology from turbines to foundations and transmission lines.

Principal investigator Jeremy Firestone, of the university’s School of Marine Science & Policy, told Windpower Offshore the aim is to create a "technology-agnostic" site open to all new and established manufacturers. As such, it is leaving the turbine size and total project capacity undetermined for now.

The project will most likely be located in state waters off of Sussex County, with the Port of Wilmington used as a staging area.

Backers hope the project will be one of five selected for $4m each in initial funding from the DOE’s US Offshore Wind: Advanced Technology Demonstration Projects funding stream. Later funding phases will winnow the projects down to three, with each receiving $46.6m over four years. The DOE has said it expects to notify successful applicants by Friday 31 August.

This week, Delaware’s congressman John Carney and senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons (all Democrats), wrote to US energy secretary Steven Chu in support of the project. Delaware governor Jack Markell wrote a similar letter in May, and Siemens, Gamesa, Vestas, the US Fish & Wildlife Service and Delmarva Power have all expressed support – as has one start-up turbine supplier that Firestone said he was unable to name.

The backers hope to do much of the project’s state and federal permitting before the turbine model and size are even chosen, although Firestone admits this will make the approval process more complicated.  

The project will also need to find a buyer for its electricity and secure regulatory approval for that purchase. While the Markell letter mentions Delmarva as the assumed power purchaser, the utility said it has made no commitments. "We simply do not know what any [power purchase] mechanism would be at this point," a Delmarva spokesman said.

But he added that Delmarva expects the project to cost less, per megawatt, than a full-scale offshore project. "Delivering energy at a reasonable price for our customers is a primary goal for Delmarva Power," the spokesman said.

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