PSC takes more testimony on offshore turbine location
Despite pleas from local officials to push a proposed wind farm further off the coast of Ocean City, droves of people spoke in favor of the initiative to create clean energy during the first of two virtual public hearings on the matter held by the Maryland Public Service Commission on Tuesday night.
Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan has reiterated his staunch opposition to U.S. Wind’s plan to create a 104-wind turbine farm that comes as close as 13 miles from the coastline.
His main concerns were a horizon blighted by the tall wind turbines that would not only create an eyesore visitors will have to look at, but also a view that will hurt tourism and property values.
During the hearing on Tuesday, Meehan told the commission that the city supports clean energy and the jobs it can create but pointed to places like Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks where wind farms are more than 20 miles from shore.
He questioned the need to rush the installation of the turbines with so many unanswered questions, suggesting the project be halted until the leased underwater lands can be pushed back.
“It’s clearly a benefit to all Marylanders but should not come at an expense ... to Ocean City,” he said. “We only get one chance to get this right, and this is your chance.”
Joining his sentiments were Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, who also asked the PSC to pause and hold off on approving the wind projects until Ocean City’s beach and horizon were protected.
City Engineer Terry McGean said he attended a hearing in January 2020 regarding the increase of the size of the turbines, which are currently set to be 850 feet tall, with blades as tall as the Statue of Liberty.
During the hearing in 2020, McGean said, U.S. Wind told the PSC the change from 8 megawatt turbines to 12 megawatt turbines was a good thing. At the time, McGean warned people that U.S. Wind was planning to construct more turbines than initially proposed, after seeing renderings with 61 turbines.
“People who saw those renderings were shocked,” McGean said, adding that even in his worst nightmare, he could never imagine 104 turbines. “Reject the U.S. Wind bids and don’t award anymore ORECS [Offshore Renewable Energy Certificates]” he said.”
But unlike Carozza, Meehan and McGean, most people who spoke during the public hearing favored of the offshore wind projects, including Jen Aiosa, the chief sustainability officer in Baltimore County.
“We support the expansion of offshore wind projects in Maryland,” she said. “It’s about more than any single proposed project. Moving forward ... will have positive ripple effects throughout Maryland.”
Rehoboth resident Charlie Garlow told the commission he looks forward to seeing more wind turbines offshore because they will save money for Marylanders and create jobs. If the lease areas were to be pushed further offshore, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, would have to find space and figure out how to work around shipping lanes, he said, and if people are so concerned about appearances, they should be concerned about the banner planes and rusty container ships bringing goods from China.
Ocean City resident Cherie McNett said she supports the wind projects and thinks the angst against the projects is misplaced.
McNett did not think the farm would be a blight on the horizon, and if anything, they will be far less intrusive than the banner planes that tug banners back and forth along the beach.
But on top of that, McNett painted Ocean City as anti-green, saying it lacked a recycling program and now opposes wind energy.
Another person in favor of the wind turbines was Cindy Dillon of Ocean Pines, who urged the commission to approve the projects.
“This should not become a political football,” she said. “We have an opportunity to show our country, even the world, that we want to do our part.”
Over 50 people spoke during the public hearing on Tuesday.
The PSC planned to hold a second public hearing on the wind farms on Thursday, Sept. 30 at 6 p.m.
Both public hearings can be found by visiting the Maryland Public Service Commission’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/c/MarylandPSC.