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Wind Farms at Sea: Delaware Port Town Locals Weigh in on Proposal

Fenwick Island discusses Orsted's plan for wind power.


First seen on Dan's Papers - February 9, 2020

Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas


I recently came across a story about a public meeting in the beach town of Fenwick Island, Delaware. As you know, the Danish company Orsted is proposing to build a wind farm offshore Montauk and we’ve had numerous public meetings about it.


Some people are supporting this project, some are vigorously opposing it, and many residents of Wainscott are vigorously objecting to the underwater power cable from that wind farm coming ashore at the beach in Wainscott, which Orsted says is the beach closest to the electric grid on land they need to hook up to.


Anyway, here’s what happened at that meeting in the auditorium of Fenwick Island’s Indian River High School last November, according to Coastal Point. First came the presentation. Orsted’s group of 17 turbines, each 853 feet tall, will be only 17 miles offshore the coast, a location determined partially because they have to stay out of the major shipping lanes. They will be visible from shore, but just barely.


At night, however, the flashing red lights at the top to keep aircraft from bumping into them will be more visible from shore. The power created will not be available to Delaware residents. Delaware has yet to approve the concept of offshore wind farms. Yes, the plan is it would be hooked up to the grid after coming ashore in Delaware, but then it will continue on to provide power to Maryland, which does approve wind farms. The reason it has to land in Delaware, according to the story, is because to get to Maryland, the most direct line first comes ashore in Delaware.


The cable would come ashore at the Fenwick Island State Park beach. Delaware depends upon tourists coming to this beach, and it is important to the community. And so to sweeten the deal, writes Coastal Point, Orsted is offering to build and pay for “a new bi-level parking facility, a new office for the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce, a playground, pickleball courts, housing for lifeguards, upgraded concessions, an amphitheater, office/classroom space, walking trails and an elevated walkway across Route 1.” The projected amount they will spend on the project is reported as $18 million.


(I know many citizens of Wainscott must be shuddering to think of such an offer for Wainscott Beach. Wainscott’s beach is largely, for reason of geography and beach sticker requirements, a beach just for the 650 Wainscotters and their friends.)

Wind Turbines out to sea, Photo: Svetlana Tebenkova/iStock/Thinkstock


Here were some of the comments made by people opposing the project in Delaware.


“We do not need pickleball courts to be built on fragile wetlands,” someone said.


Nothing will be built on wetlands, the Orsted reps said. And nothing will be on the beach, either.


“It’s no secret that Ocean City is not a fan of offshore wind,” was another comment.


Ocean City is a nearby Maryland beach town, Their mayor, Rick Meehan, was at the meeting, however. And he said that Ocean City doesn’t oppose offshore wind farms.


“We support them, farther offshore,” he said.


“Your view will be changed forever,” was another comment from Meehan. “(The turbines) are three and a half times the height of the tallest building in Ocean City.”


True, true.


“Is this the camel’s nose that is coming in here?” was another comment reported by Coastal Point. This refers to the idea that if a camel sticks his nose into your tent, you can assume there’s lots more camel behind the nose that could come in.


Yes, there are wind farms being proposed all over the place these days. In case you haven’t noticed, temperatures are rising, glaciers are melting, the weather has gone catastrophic and we have to get out of the fossil fuel business. And wind farms along the shore make great sense. The Montauk wind farm could potentially provide the power to produce electricity for every home on the South Fork.


Also, the Montauk wind farm will be more than 30 miles offshore and not visible to those living along Long Island beaches. (Does that include blinking lights? Don’t know.)


I think it’s important to cover every base in order to make this happen, and public meetings are part of that process. But it should be done in a gentlemanly fashion, without any hysterics or what I have come to call Trumpspeak.


For example, recently some Wainscotters took out online advertisements stating “A foreign company called ORSTED struck a sweetheart deal with New York State to build a South Fork wind farm, which will produce electricity that costs nearly double any other offshore wind farm in NY.” Another ad stated “…ORSTED profits while Long Island families struggle to make ends meet.”


Yes, Orsted is based in Denmark. A foreign country. We don’t need no foreign company sucking the dollars out of American taxpayers, certain people say. This appeals to bigots in America. Show up wearing white hoods, build a fire on the beach at midnight and shout Death to the Denmarkers. Great idea.


I wonder what a town meeting might have been like when electricity was first proposed for the East End.


“You want to build tall wooden poles like porcupine quills with wires attached down every street in America? And do you realize how many gas lamp operators will get put out of business?”


Well, yes.


This article first appeared in Dan's Papers.

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