Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Wind Energy in Delaware

Delaware is entertaining a proposal to build a two-hundred-turbine wind farm off its Atlantic coast. One option would place the turbines 11.5 miles east of Rehobeth Beach; a second is for a farm 6.9 miles off Bethany Beach, closer to the Maryland border. Last year, state lawmakers had requested proposals for new power plants to meet growing demand. In turn, they received proposals for natural gas, coal, and wind energy.

The Post notes that the wind farm proposal has been framed differently than in other states:

In Delaware, though, industry analysts say the debate has been different. Instead of wind-farm-vs.-no-wind-farm, here the debate has been windmills, which would not produce the kinds of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change, versus fossil-fuel plants, which would.

"When you say, 'Would you rather have a wind farm or would you rather have a coal plant?,' I think having the choice makes people say, 'Gee, the wind farm really is the lesser of the evils,' " said Walt Musial, a wind-energy specialist at the U.S. government's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.
Since the Delaware Bay is a major stopping point for many bird species, including the rapidly declining red knot, there is legitimate concern about a wind farm's potential effects on migratory birds. However, there is reason to think that the risks may not be high. A Danish study indicates that offshore wind farms are not likely to cause a significant hazard to flying birds. Radar and infrared tracking showed that birds learned to fly around the turbines with minimal collisions. On that basis, the Delaware Audubon Society supports the project as a means to slow the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.