Ocean City Today

State bill seeks new limits for turbine location

Measure would push site to nearly 30 miles offshore
By Greg Ellison | Mar 01, 2018
Courtesy of: US Wind Rendering provided by US Wind showing the beach view with wind turbines at 17 nautical miles offshore.

(March 2, 2018) Ocean City government’s effort to keep wind turbines from becoming part of the seaside horizon may gain traction statewide as the General Assembly examines legislation next week to push the structures farther offshore.

SB1058 and HB1135, which have hearings next Tuesday and Thursday respectively, would alter the distance requirement for turbines from between 10-30 nautical miles to not less than 26 nautical miles off the coast. A nautical mile is 1.15 statute miles.

The Maryland Public Service Commission issued conditional approvals last May for US Wind and Skipjack Wind to construct hundreds of turbines off the Ocean City Coast.

US Wind’s project would be located 12-15 nautical miles offshore, with an added stipulation to build structures as far east as practical.

Before it received state approval in May, US Wind attempted to assuage Ocean City officials’ fears by pledging to place the turbines 17 nautical miles from shore.

In July, however, the council asked both companies to place turbines 26 nautical miles (about 30 statute miles) offshore.

Delegate Christopher Adams (D-37) who is sponsoring HB1135, along with delegates Mary Beth Carozza (D-38C) and Charles Otto (D-38A), serves on the House Economic Committee, which has jurisdiction over energy policy.

“We’re trying to go back to 2013 when offshore wind leasing areas were created,” he said. “The problem is when these distances were created, we were never given a visualization of the view offshore.”

For her part, Carozza, who has attended Public Service Commission meetings in Berlin and Annapolis, as well as consulting with the Lower Shore Wind Alliance, local chambers and elected officials, feels significant concerns have been raised about environmental and tourism impacts.

“I continue to have questions about both the visibility of the wind turbines from the beach and how they may impact property owners and our tourism industry,” she said. “In addition, I also believe we need full disclosure on the total cost of the offshore wind energy project and the impact on ratepayers.”

On Feb. 5, Mayor Rick Meehan and the City Council passed a resolution opposing the construction of offshore structures that would be visible from shore. The next day the Worcester County Commissioners followed suit with its own vote in opposition to placing turbines within view of the resort’s oceanfront.

Sen. Jim Mathias said the wind turbine project was vetted for several years prior to having regulations established by the Public Service Commission.

“This concept has been discussed by the Maryland General Assembly conceptually at least two years before it was introduced as a bill for three consecutive years,” he said.

In addition to providing a net positive for ratepayers in Maryland, Mathias said the Public Service Commission included requirements for job creation and capital investment.

“The four PSC members who approved this were Hogan appointees,” he said. “Not only did they approve one, they approved both.”

Adams said since the leasing areas outside Ocean City were approved, other east coast seaboard states have established longer distances.

For example, Avangrid Renewables is developing a wind turbine project approximately 27 nautical miles off the coast of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

“We need US Wind to be patient and allow the debate to happen that didn’t happen in 2013,” he said. “In 2013, they were basing opinions off of what people were saying not what they were seeing.”

As fellow legislators, many of whom own property at the shore, learn turbines might be visible from the beach, Adams said the project has gained renewed attention statewide.

“We’re not opposed to renewable energy or offshore wind,” he said. “I am trying to give a voice to our Ocean City friends in Annapolis.”

For his part, Mathias is hopeful an accord can be reached.

“I’m hoping US Wind and the Town of Ocean City can sit down and come up with a mutually agreed distance … where the project makes sense and the town is comfortable with the distance,” he said.

Adams, who lives in Salisbury, said he wants to assure Maryland’s only seashore continues to thrive as renewable energy production is advanced.

“We’re a four-season resort,” he said. “You’re not there to look at industrial energy production.”

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