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DE - Delaware eyes its first offshore wind target, but trouble looms

The state illustrates the challenges facing the Biden administration as it pushes for a build-out of offshore wind on the East Coast.

For years, Delaware has been on the sidelines as the emerging offshore wind industry flocked to neighboring states, but a new law could transform the industry in the state — if it’s not too late.

Delaware’s Democratic-led Legislature recently ordered a study of the state’s offshore wind potential to be reported back by the end of the year. The move, which was signed by Gov. John Carney (D) this month, adds momentum for the state to set its first target for offshore wind, a goal of many lawmakers and environmental groups.

“We’re alone among our neighbors of not really having wind targets,” said state Sen. Stephanie Hansen (D), who has spearheaded the state’s reassessments of offshore wind to meet its climate targets as chair of the state Senate Environment and Energy Committee. “Delaware, as of now, I think, is really firing on all cylinders to move into the next phase of energy planning and implementation.”

If the study leads to a state offshore wind goal, it would bring Delaware in line with neighboring states and give it an opportunity to compete for industry jobs and businesses emerging along the East Coast. Power grid operator PJM Interconnection LLC is assisting with the study in looking at transmission impacts. But concerns about the cost of offshore wind still linger from a 2018 analysis that effectively tabled wind ambitions in the state for years.

Meanwhile, a movement against offshore wind along coastal communities has begun to capture the sentiment of Delaware towns and some lawmakers.

“I think it is harmful,” said state Sen. Bryant Richardson (R), the only senator to vote against Hansen’s study. He opposes the offshore wind industry due to its potential costs and what he says are negative impacts to the ocean environment and views from the shore.

“It’s an eyesore,” he said of the industry.

Delaware is juggling its offshore wind future as the industry reaches a turning point in the U.S.

Thousands of turbines are expected to go up in the northeast Atlantic in the coming years, spurred by state commitments and subsidies from Maine to Virginia. That comes alongside millions of dollars of promised state and private investments to beef up aging ports, build manufacturing and steel fabrication facilities, and make job programs to create a workforce capable of building and maintaining the new industry.

The wave of new proposals is partly thanks to the Biden administration’s commitment to raise enough wind farms in the ocean to power 10 million homes by 2030. The White House on Tuesday approved the nation’s fourth commercial-scale offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island and has said it remains “on track” to reach 16 offshore wind environmental reviews by 2025.

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