Supplemental info provided to feds so building can begin
(Nov. 1, 2019) The offshore wind project offshore of Ocean City continues to make headway, despite continued concern from the Ocean City Council and Mayor Rick Meehan.
Skipjack Wind Farm is looking to finish submitting all cost information to the federal government to obtain the building permit for the proposed offshore wind farm and to find a property in the Ocean City area for the maintenance facility building, according to Joy Weber, development manager for Skipjack. The federal construction plan was submitted in April and could take up to a year for full approval.
“We're now adding the supplemental information,” Weber said. “The federal government — overseeing agency — reviews the information we submit and says, 'In order to have a complete look at what you guys are submitting, we need this additional information.'”
Skipjack, whose parent company is the Danish firm ∅rsted, is still planning to build the turbines 19.5 miles offshore and 26 miles away from the Ocean City Pier at 800 feet tall. It hopes to begin construction by late 2022 or early 2023. The company wants to find a property for the maintenance facility as soon as possible so it can be used for construction planning. According to Weber, even if they find an existing building, there will most likely be construction involved with the facility to meet the planning and maintenance needs.
Clint Plummer, head of marketing strategies and new projects at ∅rsted, previously said that GE Renewable Energy will supply the 12 MW turbines that have the potential to be 50 percent more powerful than the first U.S. Offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island. The turbine project 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, according to Plummer.
However, at the end of September, the Ocean City Council and Mayor Rick Meehan sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan, asking him to re-open the proceedings based on the material change to the wind turbines, according to Jessica Waters, communications manager for the Town of Ocean City.
Council members and Meehan said they were generally in support of the wind turbines and green energy, but were concerned that seeing the wind turbines off the coast would turn tourists away from visiting Ocean City. They specifically wanted the turbines at least 33 miles off the coast.
“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 to Gov. Hogan reads.
Waters added that on Oct. 21, the director of Maryland Energy Administration, who reports directly to Gov. Hogan, sent a letter to the Public Service Commission requesting additional review by the commission due to “significant changes that are being proposed by Skipjack and U.S. Wind (the other proposed wind farm operator).”
Weber said if Skipjack switched to a shorter wind turbine, it would not be as powerful as the type already selected. In addition, the company cannot move the wind turbines because the area the council and Meehan requested it be moved to is not a part of the wind energy area Skipjack is leasing from the federal government.
“It's like developing something on land,” Weber said. “You have to own the real estate you want to build on in the first place.”
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. U.S. Wind planned to install a meteorological tower in July, but was delayed by inclement weather.