Year in Review: Wind Power in Delaware
As the year opened, legislative leaders had blocked the regulatory approval of the power purchase agreement between Bluewater Wind and Delmarva Power. Wind power proponents faced the nightmare scenario of trying to get the General Assembly to act, while Harris McDowell prepared a series of hearings designed to kill the proposal.
In the meanwhile, proponents had drafted a resolution, HCR 38, to approve the wind power project. Within a week, 28 representatives and seven senators had signed on a sponsors. Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf deserves credit for the way he fostered a bipartisan alliance on this. He took the draft resolution to Bob Valihura, and told him he could put his name on the top if he wanted.
HCR 38 passed the House in April, while Harris McDowell labored on a committee report intended to kill the project, which was rendered toothless by his colleagues. Meanwhile, Bluewater and Delmarva Power had entered into negotiations under the watchful eye of Lt. Gov. John Carney and Senator Tony DeLuca. I chose not to write about the talks for some weeks in order to not jinx the effort.
I was attending a fund raiser here in Wilmington when I got word that the General Assembly had passed SB 328, approving the revised PPA. I was left breathless and light-headed. After two years of pushing against the door, it had swung open in a unanimous vote.
Even after the General Assembly approved the project, there was more to be said and done. The Public Service Commission and other agencies voted their final approval the revised PPA in July. The country belatedly learned that Delaware was leading the way for offshore wind power when the New York Times Magazine published a 5,000 word piece on the saga. And Charlie Copeland tried but failed to convince voters that he really had been for wind power all along, despite the long public record to the contrary.
My own advocacy was not limited to this blog. I spoke at every hearing I could. I published an op-ed on the economics of wind power in the News Journal. Allan Loudell of WDEL talked with me regularly on the subject. I talked about wind power several times on Progressive Voices with Dana Garrett on WVUD and on the Great Green Home Show on WILM. I wrote and produced a radio spot, funded through Delaware Audubon, to counter Delmarva Power's misinformation campaign. Behind the scenes, I worked with fellow advocates on legislative strategy and the drafting of HCR 38.
The story isn't over. Bluewater Wind still has to build the project. Parent company Babcock & Brown is facing a financial squeeze brought on by its excessive leverage.
Wind power succeeded because of the emergence of a determined, smart and unusually effective environmental movement here in Delaware. I will be working with fellow advocates to apply the lessons learned from the wind power fight to building a more broadly effective environmental movement here in Delaware. Stay tuned.