Ørsted still mulling location for wind power facility

FENWICK ISLAND — Ørsted, the Danish wind power company that in early July pulled the plug on a proposed interconnect facility at Fenwick Island State Park for its wind farm project due to wetlands/environmental concerns, continues to explore other options.

The company soon hopes to announce a new potential site for the land-based interconnect for Skipjack, a proposed 120-megawatt offshore wind farm projected to provide power for distribution to PJM, a regional transmission organizer that coordinates the movement of electricity in 13 states in the Mid-Atlantic region, including Delaware.

On Ørsted’s list are several locations in southeastern Sussex County.

“Ørsted establishes multiple interconnection positions with PJM as a matter of due diligence, and Bethany and Cedar Neck are two of its positions for the Skipjack Wind Farm,” said Brady Walker, Ørsted’s Mid-Atlantic market manager. “No decisions have been made on an alternative interconnection site at this time. Ørsted hopes to announce an alternative site in the coming weeks.”

Ørsted representatives project that Skipjack will provide enough clean energy to power upward of 35,000 homes through PJM.
PJM must approve any plan to connect to the grid.

An “interconnection position” is a request by an energy company, such as Ørsted, to connect to the PJM grid at a specific location. Additionally, the locations, such as Bethany Beach and Cedar Neck mentioned by Ørsted, relate only to connecting to the grid, not necessarily where the cables might come onshore.

In July 2019, Ørsted entered a nonbinding memorandum of understanding with Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to construct the beach-based interconnection facility within Fenwick Island State Park through a lease agreement.

However, additional site evaluation revealed an abundance of undisturbed wetlands at the state park location, and Ørsted subsequently notified DNREC it was abandoning plans for that interconnect location.

Under the proposed lease partnership with DNREC, Ørsted would have provided up to $18 million in improvements at Fenwick Island State Park in exchange for placing Skipjack’s interconnection site at the park.

Plans for the Fenwick Island State Park interconnect drew heavy opposition from residents, as well as Fenwick town officials.

In December 2019, the Fenwick Island Town Council passed a resolution formally opposing the DNREC/Ørsted plan as presented, citing impact on adjacent Fenwick Island property owners, as well as concerns about the substation location in an environmentally sensitive area and visibility of wind farms from Fenwick Island’s shorelines.

According to Ørsted representatives, Skipjack’s wind turbines will be approximately 19 miles from the Delmarva coast.

Ørsted’s withdrawal from the Fenwick Island site will not impact its schedule for the Skipjack Wind Farm, which remains slated to come online at the end of 2023.

“Ørsted remains committed to completing the Skipjack Wind Farm by late 2023 as announced earlier this year,” Mr. Walker said.

Skipjack was proposed in response to Maryland’s Offshore Wind Act of 2013, and according to Ørsted, can help Maryland meet its clean-energy and emission-reduction goals.