A bill that requires DNREC to investigate offshore wind as a power source and work with electric companies to analyze its impact will head to the full Senate.
Senate Bill 170, sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, passed the Senate Environment, Energy & Transportation Committee meeting Wednesday.
SB 17 0 would require the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to work with the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection to look into the viability of offshore wind energy generation.
An amendment to the bill, proposed by Hansen, requires DNREC to consult with all electric utilities in Delaware when analyzing the impact of offshore wind and when talking to other states about offshore wind in those states.
While bills aren’t voted on publicly in Senate committees, the state bill tracker later said it was approved by the committee with five in favor and one on its merits.
Hansen said the bill will only look at the possibility of offshore wind.
The bill “sort of acknowledges that we need to be looking into offshore wind and acknowledges that there are questions around procurement and should we be setting up this price procurement process now,” she said. “This doesn’t mean to say we’re doing it when maybe we will. Maybe it turns out that this is something that we ought to be doing. But this bill itself doesn’t say that this bill says we’re going to look at it.”
Shawn Garvin, secretary of DNREC, said the bill won’t change much of what they’re already doing.
“This bill basically codifies a lot of work that we’re already doing,” Garvin said. “You mentioned [Special Initiative on Offshore Wind]. That’s just one of many data sources. As the chair mentioned, we’ve had several consultants who have been working on this. We’ve been working with PJM. We’ve been working with surrounding states.”
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Eric Buckson, R-Dover, said that the bill could cost money because departments hire outside consultants to do these types of studies.
Garvin said they have already factored outside consultants into their budget and the bill wouldn’t lead to them spending more.
Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, asked Garvin if DNREC is looking at the possible impacts offshore wind could have on tourism.
“That’s kind of not specifically related to looking at transmission lines,” Garvin said. “Those kind of impact our ability to carry the energy and how we tie in so that’s a broader look that will occur when we look at if the Delaware project is moving forward.”
More than a dozen people representing various environmental groups spoke in favor of the bill, with only two people speaking against it.
Frank Burn of People for Offshore Wind Energy Resources Group, said they support the bill because of how much other states are investing in wind power.
“In New Jersey two steel plants supplying materials for offshore wind turbines supplied 500 permanent jobs,” Burns said. “By showing our active interest in taking this first step in the direction of developing offshore wind, we can catalyze bringing this type of economic activity to Delaware.”
John Irwin of the Sierra Club said there isn’t any definitive commitment in the bill and it will help to see if offshore wind is right for Delaware.
“We get a chance to learn from the study, evaluate it,” he said. “The procurement process gets bids from developers and we can evaluate those bids before we make any decision about it. It’s a good deal.”
David Stevenson, director of the Center for Energy & Environment at the Caesar Rodney Institute said that offshore wind ultimately will make electricity too expensive for many.
“When you’re looking at premium costs, that money comes out of people’s pockets,” Stevenson said. “That means they’re not spending it elsewhere. If all you look at is the jobs created by the wind project, you have to look at the jobs lost because of the extra money people are spending.”
The bill, which doesn’t require a fiscal note, has 11 additional sponsors and cosponsors, all Democrats.
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