Offshore wind experts to share information, gather feedback and listen

Jun 18, 2018

The Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration at the University of Delaware and Delaware Sea Grant are sponsoring offshore wind power workshops as part of the “Focus on the Coast” seminar series. On June 27th, the City of Rehoboth Beach is partnering to present the workshop. A workshop is also planned in Bethany Beach on July 12th. These sessions are intended to create a space where community members can engage in a dialogue with experts and others so that they have informed conversations about how Delaware can best engage with offshore wind energy development.

The workshops will cover a broad range of topics, including economic development opportunities and potential effects on tourism. The wind developers of the two wind farms off of the Delaware (and Maryland) coast will also be on hand to discuss project specifics. With this discussion event, organizers hope not only to provide citizens with a better understanding of offshore wind power, but also to garner greater insight into community concerns and local citizens’ views and values.

A highlight of the June 27th event will be a keynote presentation from Jen McCann—the director of both the U.S. Coastal Programs at the University of Rhode Island and extension services at Rhode Island Sea Grant— whose presentation will focus on her experience with stakeholder engagement strategies for the Block Island project, the first offshore wind farm in the nation. On July 12th—the Bethany Beach event—will feature a panel of experts that will participate in a community discussion about the prospects of offshore wind in this region.

Offshore Wind Power in Delaware—Why Now?

Delaware needs to move more rapidly towards a cleaner, more sustainable future. In August of 2017, Governor John Carney signed an executive order establishing the Offshore Wind Working Group, a group committed to studying opportunities for how Delaware can benefit from the developing offshore wind power market along the Atlantic Coast. Additionally, there are currently two offshore wind projects moving forward in federal waters off of the Delaware beaches from Rehoboth down to Fenwick Island. But despite all of these recent developments and plans for the future, many community members and local officials are unaware that these research groups and projects even exist, according to Delaware Sea Grant human-environment interaction specialist Jame McCray, who holds a doctorate in interdisciplinary ecology.

“Part of Delaware Sea Grant’s mission is to be a link between coastal communities and scientists studying relevant social and environmental topics,” McCray said. “We felt it was important to host this information exchange because if communities and researchers don’t connect, then neither group will have a complete picture of the issue. I see this workshop as one way to have that rich conversation about what Delawareans want for the future.”

Workshop organizer Bonnie Ram, associate director of the Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration, has been working on a range of environment and energy issues for decades and following environmental and community analyses of offshore wind since 2001. She explained that wind technology works well on land and even better at sea, while costs continue to decline significantly. “The clean energy transition is happening all around the world as renewable technologies get more efficient and cost-competitive. Utilities and communities are realizing some of the benefits,” Ram remarked. “So, what’s holding us back from a more rapid evolution to a low-carbon electricity grid in Delaware? We know that policies are important, but underlying these mechanisms is the need to inform and involve local communities early in the decision-making process.”

The June 27th workshop will be held at the Rehoboth Convention Center, and the Bethany Beach event occurs July 12th at Bethany Ocean Suites. Both workshops run from 8 a.m. to noon. The workshops are free to attend. To register online or for more information, interested parties can visit the Delaware Sea Grant website.


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