The proposal to develop an offshore wind energy project in the Atlantic Ocean off Ocean City could have significantly more benefits to the town of Ocean City than drawbacks.
At 17 miles offshore, the 30 wind turbines will barely be discernable from the beach, especially during warm summer months when moisture-saturated air substantially limits distance viewing.
Of far greater concern for Ocean City are the long-term impacts of sea level rise.
With passions running high, it is important to take a broader and more balanced approach to this form of clean energy.
The transition off fossil fuels is becoming increasingly urgent as sea level rise, driven by climate change, is already being felt by the resort, especially on its beleaguered bayside flank.
Already having risen nearly a foot through the 20th century in coastal Maryland, sea level is projected to rise 2.5-4 feet by the end of the century, due to increasing ocean temperatures. Our actions now can mitigate the severity of that rise.
The National Audubon Society’s recent report “Survival by Degrees” finds that two-thirds of America’s birds are threatened with extinction from climate change, but offers reason for hope for 76 percent of these birds if we can limit global temperature increases to 2.7F.
Research shows that most coastal birds use waters closer to shore than 17 miles for foraging and migrating. There will be some bird impacts from offshore turbines at this distance but we must face the fact that a rapidly warming climate is a far greater threat to birds and to people.
Moreover, the prospect of significant blue and white collar jobs and a boon to the recreational fishery makes this ethical move forward even more appealing.
Ocean City should be lauded for its opposition to offshore drilling but mindful that the fossil fuel industry has consistently spread disinformation campaigns against offshore wind power.
Visitors to Ocean City enjoy a high quality beach experience combined with an intensely developed resort that offers the excitement of lively bars, restaurants, arcades, racy Boardwalk T-shirt shops, and high-rise hotels.
While mostly invisible wind turbines will cause little variance to this unique blend of beach and bustle, they could ultimately extend the majesty of this wonderful town to future generations.
Assateague Coastal Trust
Director of Bird Conservation and Interim Executive Director.