Commentary

printed 11/15/2019

Ocean City officials and other opponents of visible offshore wind turbines have been given another opportunity to tell the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) that they don’t like what they will see if two wind energy companies are allowed to proceed with their installations off the coast.

The PSC on Oct. 25 issued a “Notice of Opportunity to Comment” on previously approved projects by Skipjack Offshore Energy and US Wind because the turbines they now want to install are much taller — at least 200 feet taller, according to the Baltimore Sun — than those that were part of the plan approved in 2017. Comments are due today (Friday).

Skipjack notified the PSC on Sept. 24 that it had decided to pursue larger turbines for its project, and US Wind filed a similar letter on Oct. 4, arguing that its original design incorporated turbines that are no longer available.

It’s safe to assume that Ocean City’s objections have already been filed, since City Engineer Terry McGean, at an Oct. 17 meeting of the state Renewable Energy Development and Siting Task Force, said companies that make post-approval changes in the bulk and height of projects should have to go back to the PSC.

Obviously, state officials agree with him on that point, as PSC approval of one thing should not mean approval of anything.

That’s a real problem, considering that wind energy companies spent two years trying to convince the public that the turbine towers would be barely visible from the beach, only to say much later that, sorry, but things have changed.

The argument that certain equipment is no longer available or that larger turbines make more economic sense should not be accepted, when, theoretically, the PSC considered the public’s concerns based on separate sets of facts.

The good or bad of offshore wind energy is not the issue. It’s simply a matter of saying one thing and doing another, when there is still time for more changes before construction starts in 2021-2022.

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