(Sept. 27, 2019) The wind turbine projects approved for construction off Ocean City’s coast generated another protest from Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan and the City Council last week, this time in a letter asking Gov. Larry Hogan to back their position that the turbines should be least 33 miles offshore.
“We would like to make clear that the Mayor and Council support the concept of clean energy including offshore wind, provided it is done in a responsible manner,” said the letter sent last Wednesday. “The Mayor and Council’s support for offshore wind is contingent on the projects not being visible from the Ocean City shoreline.”
Skipjack Wind Farm, whose parent company is the Dutch firm Ærsted, has proposed to build turbines 19.5 miles offshore and 26 miles from the Ocean City Pier. Ocean City. Ærsted recently joined with Tradepoint Atlantic to build the turbines at a Baltimore site.
According to Clint Plummer, head of marketing strategies and new projects at Ærsted, the company has recently chosen GE Renewable Energy to supply the turbines. It is expected to be 12 MW and stand at 800 feet tall. Ærsted said these turbines have the potential to be 50 percent more powerful than the first U.S. offshore windfarm in Block Island, Rhode Island.
“While this wind turbine is new, the core elements of the project remain unchanged,” Plummer said.
He reiterated that the turbines will provide nearly 1,400 jobs in Maryland and over $200 million of local investment and establish a permanent facilities and related jobs in Ocean City.
“Now we are about to begin a multi-year permitting review in which a number of state and federal agencies will consider all environmental and stakeholder issues, including the project’s visibility from shore,” Plummer said. “We encourage any interested parties to participate in those processes.”
The U.S. Wind project, according to its website, will be 32 turbines approximately 17 miles off the coast of Ocean City in 20-30 meters of water. With 250 MW of power expected, it would meet 100 percent of Maryland’s offshore wind renewable energy goals. The U.S. Wind website states that its Maryland Offshore Wind Project will contribute 5,000 jobs and a $16 billion net economic benefit.
“We support the windmills,” Ocean City Councilman Dennis Dare said. “We’re not arguing about that. We don’t want to see them though.”
Meehan agreed that he supported the windmills and wanted to ensure it was “done in a responsible manner.”
“Our concern is the drastic change that has been made to the proposed project since 2012 when it was submitted to the Public Service Commission,” Meehan said.
Dare said that the proposal has changed from 200 feet tall to 500 feet tall and from 2 MW to 12 MW. His biggest concern is that the wind turbines could have a detrimental effect on property values and tourism, mainly that visitors are less likely to come to Ocean City because of the wind turbines.
Dare added that one of the firms had a study done and two thirds of the respondents didn’t have a problem with seeing wind mills off the coast of Ocean City.
“If you’re going to lose one third of your business, wouldn’t that be a concern of you?” Dare said.
He further explained that each wind turbine requires two red blinking aviation lights.
“At night, it’s going to look like red fireflies out over the ocean,” Dare said. “Now talk about a viewshed being disturbed. If it can be prevented, why not prevent it?”
Ocean City Councilman Tony DeLuca agreed with Dare and added that he saw another wind farm in either West Virginia or Kentucky.
“They were not operable,” DeLuca said. “They were rusting and they were eyesores in the mountains because they weren’t being used. That potential worries me, long term, if that’s what’s going to happen to the ones that are in the ocean.”
DeLuca and Dare both hope that the state and governor will have some influence over moving the proposed turbines farther offshore. DeLuca said the turbines should not be visible from the resort’s tallest building, which is the Century One building. The turbines, according to Dare, could affect water navigation, which could lead to the structures being struck.
“The visual impact and associated negative affect on tourism, property values, and the environment of these giant structures, now more than twice the height of the tallest high-rise in Ocean City and allowed within 10 miles of our shore, cannot be understated,” the statement reads.
“Yet to this date not a single public hearing has been conducted in Ocean City corporate limits by any regulatory agency to listen to the concerns of our citizens regarding these huge towers.”
Though the statement says the turbines are allowed to be within 10 miles of the shore, neither project is proposed to be constructed that close. The statement also expresses that the commercial fishing industry, maritime transportation industry, Coast Guard and Department of Defense oppose the location of the turbines.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management conducted the environmental assessment and determined that there would be no significant impact.
Though U.S. Wind hoped to install its Meteorological Tower in July, weather has delayed the date.