Energy company offers to reduce wind farm visibilityAlthough turbines could be farther, Meehan has reservations on redesign
(April 14, 2017) Days after the Ocean City Council agreed to send a letter that asks the proposed wind farms not be seen from the shore, the company that sparked these concerns began redesigning its project to move its turbines back five miles. But Mayor Rick Meehan said pushing the turbines from 12 to 17 miles from the coast might not be enough.
“I recognize the gesture, but I’m not sure that additional five miles is an alternate,” he said on Tuesday. “Our intent is to point out that what we saw and what we were presented is not what we were led to believe was going to be installed.”
Last week, the Mayor and City Council expressed concerns about U.S. Wind’s proposal that would put the first line of 187 turbines 12 miles off the beach. The turbines would be approximately 480 feet tall and would have two red lights that would blink at night.
The council told U.S. Wind Development Director Paul Rich that they did not oppose the wind farm in general, but worried that seeing it could have a negative effect on tourism and property values. Meehan said he wrote and sent the letter to the Maryland Public Service Commission, federal representatives and Gov. Larry Hogan.
On Friday, Rich wrote a letter to city officials that reaffirmed the company’s willingness to work with them and had taken their concerns seriously.
“We have already conducted preliminary engineering redesigns to push eastward the beginning of the wind farm as much back five miles,” he wrote. “We estimate the new location would reduce visibility of any structures as much as 35 percent.”
During his presentation on April 3, Rich said that it would cost $1 million per mile to bring the transmission line ashore, which is why the first row of turbines was set 12 miles away.
Under the same projection, the U.S. Wind project would add another $5 million to the final cost if the turbines were pushed back another five miles.
U.S. Wind has one of two projects proposed for an 80,000-acre wind energy field authorized by the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act in 2013. The wind energy areas are somewhere between 10 to 30 miles off Ocean City’s coast, and divided in two lease areas: one closer to Delaware and the other closer to downtown Ocean City.
Deepwater Wind, the other candidate, is proposing 15 wind turbines with 120 megawatts that would be off the coast near 145th Street.
Last year, Deepwater Wind applied for a site 17 miles northeast of the Maryland-Delaware border, but its Chief Executive Officer Jeff Grybowski recently told city officials that design would put the turbines back even further.
“Let me be clear: we designed our project to be indistinguishable from Ocean City,” he wrote in the project’s proposal last week. “From 145th street, our nearest wind turbine will be 19.5 miles away. From the Ocean City Life Saving Station, the nearest turbine will be 26.1 miles away.
“We want beachgoers to say, ‘where is that wind farm?’ as they struggle to glimpse something over the horizon,” Grybowski added. “The safety lights of the turbines will be pinpoints in the far distance that will be difficult to spot unless one is really looking for them.”
Deepwater Wind is set to make a formal presentation on April 17 during the council session. Meehan said that despite Deepwater Wind’s offer to put the turbines out of sight from downtown, he still had his reservations.
“Their concept is to have their transmission line come ashore in Ocean City, and we have our concerns on that,” he said. “The general concern is how the [wind farms] will impact visibility and our tourism.”
After reviewing public and official comments, the Public Service Commission will decide between the U.S. Wind and Deepwater Wind proposals no later than May 17.