Delaware State Senator concerned over offshore wind farm’s impact to coastal tourism, utility costs

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Delaware State Senator Gerald Hocker

Following a public meeting earlier this week on a proposed wind farm off the coast of Delaware, State Senator Gerald Hocker is speaking out, expressing concerns over how the proposal could affect tourism and raise utility costs in Sussex County.

The proposal would install wind turbines that would span hundreds of feet into the air, nearly the same height of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and over half the height of the Empire State Building in New York.

Earlier this week, State Senator Gerald Hocker and State Representative Ron Gray held a public meeting alongside officials from Orsted, the Swedish energy company pushing the project, and DNREC.

Around 90-percent of residents who turned out to the standing room only meeting were estimated to be in opposition of the proposal, according to Senator Hocker who expressed deep concerns Thursday morning while appearing on the Mike Bradley Show.

In an interview with WGMD’s Mike Bradley, Sen. Hocker explains…

“It is going to hurt the economy of tourism,” Senator Hocker said. “A University of Delaware study and a North Carolina University study both say that it will hurt tourism.”

A number of surveys, including one from the University of Delaware, indicate perhaps 15-to-35 percent of tourists will stop coming as the view degenerates as a result of the offshore wind turbines.

Rehoboth Beach residents are just learning that the closest point of the turbines will be off the coast of their community, according to Senator Hocker who said he’s received many emails and phone calls from concerned residents in Rehoboth.

The Delaware Tourism Office reported in 2016, tourism contributed roughly $3 billion to Delaware’s gross domestic product, sustained over 41,000 direct jobs, and generated $470 million in taxes and fees for state and local government.

Senator Hocker stressed that he’s in favor of sustainable energy sources but not the kind that will come at the expense of the state taxpayers in the longrun.

“I am not against sustainable energy, I’m all for clean energy, but let’s do it the right way,” Senator Hocker explained. “This state has already lost so many manufacturing jobs, and one of the reasons they give is utility costs, and this will up our utility costs, no doubt about it.”

As it stands right now if the project is approved, which will likely take years and involve costly litigation, Delaware will receive no benefit.

The electricity generated will be used for the State of Maryland. There were talks about feeding electricty from the wind farm into the Indian River Power Plant, but the Army Corps of Engineers refused to allow it.

Last month, The Caesar Rodney Institute’s Center for Energy Competitiveness petitioned Delaware Governor John Carney to take action, arguing that a wind farm off the coast of Delaware would “destroy” the state’s coastal tourism.

“My research is showing offshore wind projects could destroy our beach economy,” Dave Stevenson, Director for the Center for Energy Competitiveness with the Caesar Rodney explained. “Tourists visit Eastern Sussex for the ocean, and a pristine view to the horizon is critical to that beach enjoyment.”

Ørsted, an energy company based in Denmark, is the company pushing the project and partnering with Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), who signed a memorandum of understanding after the company promised to invest as much as $18 million in Fenwick Island State Park.

WGMD reached out to DNREC and Governor John Carney’s office, both of whom have not responded to our requests for comment.