Opinion: Windfarms Imperil Delaware’s Coastline

Orsted Wind Power’s offshore wind farm in Burbo Bank, UK, constructed in 2017, is the company’s tallest, with a tower height of 370 feet.

Several offshore wind farm projects that will stretch from Rehoboth Beach to Ocean City, MD will soon be a reality unless citizens and legislators take action now.

 
Orsted Wind Power (Denmark) has been granted one of multiple offshore wind farm leases. Orsted’s Skipjack Offshore Energy, LLC and Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) have a tentative agreement to allow installation of multiple electric transmission cables and connection facilities (industrial uses) in the ecologically fragile Fenwick Island State Park (Park) in exchange for a major expansion of the Park.
 
 

The Park is a narrow strip of sensitive ecosystems, wetlands, and wildlife habitats that normally would be protected by DNREC, so why the push to commercialize and industrialize it?

Skipjack and other offshore wind energy companies are looking to use the tallest wind turbines in the world, measuring 853 feet or three times taller than the turbine in Lewes. As planned, these turbines will be in plain view from the Delaware shoreline both day and night (with flashing red beacon lights). This will forever destroy the pristine ocean vista that people have assumed would never change.

Orsted has built more offshore wind farms than any other company worldwide

 
Renewable clean energy is a good thing, but offshore wind turbines visible from Delaware’s Atlantic coastline should not be allowed. In fact, many official groups are against placing these large turbines offshore including, Ocean City, MD, State of Maryland’s Assateague Park, the Assateague National Park, Army Corp of Engineers, Homeland Security, The Coast Guard, The Town of Fenwick Island, MERR, and several wildlife groups.
 

Instead, DNREC has decided that $18 million-plus a $740,000 endowment to support maintenance of the Park far out ways ruining, the Park and Delaware’s ocean horizon. The Park is located in a flood zone which normally is a criterion for restricting the number of buildings, parking, and permitted uses in such a sensitive ecosystem area. DNREC should be protecting the Park, not destroying its natural character by approving its expansion and the creation of an industrial application within the Park boundaries. People visit our parks so they can experience what nature looks like, not what concrete looks like. 

 

It’s no secret that the Atlantic coastline is in a hurricane corridor, and the proposed wind turbines have not been tested to withstand a maximum strength hurricane or Nor’easter. So if the proposed turbines are struck down in a storm who will pay to cleanup the damage, something that Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act is presently trying to accomplish along the Delaware Bay. The Atlantic horizon should never be polluted with wind turbines because the natural horizon belongs to the people and future generations, not energy developers. Responsible renewable energy can be accomplished without destroying Delaware’s coastal views and fragile park ecosystems if the wind energy developers like Orsted are willing to spend whatever it takes to protect Delaware’s natural assets.

 

The solution is simple: offshore wind energy needs to be done “the right way” by keeping turbines out of sight from the shoreline and placing the land side cables in proper industrial locations. If doing it the right way is not cost-effective for energy developers, then offshore wind energy must be stopped and the wind turbines moved to onshore. 

Delaware’s legislators need to pick up the torch now and be the stewards of the State’s natural resources and the protectors of our Atlantic coastline by stopping Skipjack and other offshore wind projects until the view from our coastline is guaranteed to remain as it is today. Once these turbines are installed there’s no going back.

 

This past Tuesday’s public meeting with Delaware legislators, DNREC, State Parks, and Orsted Wind Energy representatives was held at the Indian River High School. The entire school auditorium was filled and many of those in attendance voiced total opposition to all the proposed improvements for the Fenwick Island State Park (Park), and that the natural character of the Park should be left untouched. 

 

At the meeting, I asked if there were other sites along the Atlantic coast where Orsted could land their high voltage cables. Orsted’s representative said there were other sites but “the Park was the most efficient.”I also noted that Del. Code Title 7 and DNREC’s Administrative Code state that a lease application for a utility (use) can be denied for, “…[the] likelihood of …electromagnetic interference”, “impact on scenic beauty of the surrounding area”, and “effect on adjacent residential areas” (Ex. loss of property values).

Secretary Garvin agreed that DNREC has the authority to deny a utility lease application in the Fenwick Island State Park. Given that Orsted has alternative sites available, I implore DNREC’s Secretary Garvin deny all binding utility lease applications in the Park. 

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Paul Breger

Paul Breger lives in Fenwick Island and he has enjoyed the Delaware beaches for over 50 years.

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