Fund for Delaware wind assembly denied

Fund for Delaware wind assembly denied
State says port expansion still alive despite setback

By AARON NATHANS • The News Journal • October 21, 2010

he federal government declined to fund an offshore wind farm assembly project at the Port of Wilmington, dealing a setback to the state’s efforts to build a manufacturing base around the new technology.

The Port of Wilmington and NRG Bluewater Wind sought $22 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation for an expansion where Bluewater and other offshore wind developers could import wind turbine parts, put them together and haul them out to sea.

The application was made under the second round of a stimulus-funded transportation investment program.

The grants were announced Wednesday, and the port project was not included.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed, but I don’t think it changes our desire or our goal to be the major facility for the production and manufacture of these units,” said state Economic Development Director Alan Levin. “It just means we’ve got to go look at other sources, other ways to make this happen.”

The project, estimated to cost $66 million, envisions an assembly area near the Pigeon Point Landfill and a new causeway to a shipping berth on the Delaware River.

State officials hope manufacturers will build turbine factories nearby.

NRG had said it would likely match the federal money, but only if the grant came through. An additional $22 million was expected to be needed from state taxpayer funds.

The plans called for construction to be competed by 2013.

The port official spearheading the project said the news was only a setback, and he was hopeful NRG would remain in.

“All things considered, this is still a very viable project,” said, Tom Keefer, the port’s deputy director.

“I think the location on the Delaware here in Wilmington still makes a lot of sense, but we need to talk about the time-table, and what the next steps are going to be.”

In a written statement, NRG officials left the door open to continuing work on the project.

“Obviously we’d like to have seen the Port of Wilmington get the … grant. However, that doesn’t change NRG Bluewater Wind’s project plan nor diminish our enthusiasm to move forward with the Mid-Atlantic Wind Park. We’ll sit down with Delaware state officials at an appropriate time to discuss options with respect to the port,” said NRG spokesman Dave Gaier.

Forty-two construction projects and 33 planning projects in 40 states will share about $600 million in funding under the grant program.

They include bridges, ports, highways and rail projects. The biggest grant went to a $47.7 million streetcar project in Atlanta.

Congress is considering funding a third round of grants under the program.

The Delaware grant proposal was fashioned after a successful application by the Quonset Development Corp. for a similar project in Rhode Island.

Deepwater Wind plans a turbine assembly area there to support construction of an offshore wind farm.

In 2008, Bluewater officials said the company would make Delaware its regional hub for its offshore wind development and maintenance, which helped Bluewater win General Assembly approval of a power purchase contract.

Contact Aaron Nathans at 324-2786 or