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The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has awarded NRG Energy a lease for commercial wind energy development in 96,430 acres of federal waters located 11 nautical miles off the Delaware coast.

The lease grants NRG Bluewater Wind Delaware LLC the exclusive right to submit one or more plans to the DOI's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to conduct activities in support of wind energy development in the lease area.

The company may submit a site assessment plan (SAP) with a proposal to conduct site assessment activities, such as the installation of a meteorological tower or meteorological buoy, and/or submit a construction and operations Plan (COP) to propose construction of the actual wind facility and cabling to shore, the DOI says.

This plan could change after NRG undergoes additional planning and survey work, and submits its COP to BOEM, which will assess the potential plans based on environmental, technical and other factors before granting approval for construction.

In 2008, NRG Bluewater signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Delmarva Power & Light Co. for a 200 MW offshore wind project, but NRG terminated the agreement last December after it was unable to find an investment partner.

At the time, the project was in line to receive a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee - a necessary element for this capital-intensive project - and NRG Bluewater had received preferential development rights for a project off the coast of New Jersey and had submitted proposals for projects off the coasts of Maryland and Massachusetts.

Over two years later, the outlook for offshore wind and for the Delaware project had changed dramatically, the company said in announcing its decision to end the PPA with Delmarva Power last December.

In particular, NRG said, two aspects of the project that were critical to its success had actually gone backwards: Congress’ decision to eliminate funding for the DOE’s loan-guarantee program applicable to offshore wind, and Congress’ failure to extend the federal investment and production tax credits for offshore wind.

NRG’s securing of an offshore wind lease may make the project more attractive to investors, company spokesperson David Gaier tells NAW. However, he would not divulge details on potential deals, saying only that the company “will continue to talk with and pursue potential partners and investors.”

The lease area, which is composed of 11 full OCS blocks and 16 partial blocks, has been located to avoid existing uses of the OCS offshore Delaware, including - but not limited to - major shipping lanes into and out of Delaware Bay, a proposed vessel anchorage ground and a munitions disposal area, the DOI says.

A map of the lease area can be found here.



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