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Alternative Energy in Delaware within Reach under Existing Law

October 6, 2011

(Washington, DC) — The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) has published a new study designed to assist Delaware with its regulation and management of offshore renewable energy. Working with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Delaware Offshore Alternative Energy Framework Review & Recommendations identifies opportunities for clarifying and strengthening Delaware’s existing framework, with particular emphasis on issues and opportunities related to offshore wind energy development. The study concludes that although existing state laws can be utilized to approve alternative energy, the applicable statutes can also be updated to maximize effectiveness.

Amid rising concerns about increasing energy prices and a changing climate, the nation is experiencing increasing interest in the development of alternative energy both on- and offshore. In the mid-Atlantic region, substantial governmental attention has been directed to placing offshore wind energy facilities in federal waters. Off the coast of Delaware, a proposed offshore wind farm off Rehoboth Beach will deliver up to 200 megawatts of power. However, states like Delaware must address numerous issues using laws that were not necessarily designed with these types of resources in mind, in order to authorize construction and bring the power ashore. ELI Senior Attorney James McElfish notes that &ldqo;Delaware has many laws on the books that need to be applied in new ways to support offshore wind facilities.”

Recognizing the challenge, the five member states of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean have engaged in individual and collective efforts with ELI’s help to assess the ability of their legal frameworks to support offshore wind energy development.

ELI’s analysis of Delaware’s offshore renewable energy framework offers legal and practical recommendations for effectively integrating offshore wind into Delaware decisionmaking, from increasing state coordination to amending state permitting and leasing programs. ELI Staff Attorney Jordan Diamond emphasizes that the team goal “was to identify opportunities to update Delaware’s laws and management systems in order to effectively accommodate and manage wind siting and operations.”

ELI is a leader in this area. The Institute has completed similar studies for the states of Maryland and Virginia. The Maryland Offshore Energy Framework (2009) and Virginia Offshore Energy Development Law and Policy Review and Recommendations (2008) analyzed the tools available to these states to address new renewable energy activities in state and federal waters.