Library from Maryland
At least one of two offshore wind projects approved by Maryland utility regulators in May could be in jeopardy after an amendment sponsored by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) that seeks to push the turbines farther from the coast was approved by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee in the past week.
The Harris amendment bars federal funding from being spent on government reviews of wind projects built within 24 miles of Maryland's shoreline. Any construction that takes place farther out to sea would be unaffected.
When the House Appropriations Committee approved the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018 on Tuesday, it also OK’d an amendment opposing the development of offshore wind in Maryland.
Harris cited Ocean City’s concerns about impacts on views from the shoreline as the catalyst for the amendment. It’s important to note while Ocean City officials are not opposed to the offshore wind farm projects conceptually, they continue to express concern about the potential impact on the views from the shore and have pushed the companies to move the turbines back at least 26 miles.
The amendment restricts the use of federal funds to conduct a site assessment or construction and operation plans for wind turbines less than 24 nautical miles from Maryland’s shoreline – the distance at which the turbines would not be visible from the beach.
A wind energy developer is seeking judicial review of the Maryland Public Service Commission’s decision denying its request to construct a 17-turbine wind farm atop Dan’s Mountain.
"We want them to be moved back to the horizon, so we don't see the towers. I really believe people come to Ocean City because they want to look out into the ocean, the undisturbed natural state of the ocean, and this will dramatically change that." -- Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan
Starting in 2020 Maryland’s electricity consumers will be paying higher electric bills in order to subsidize two wind projects to be developed off the Ocean City waterfront. Over the lives of these projects the subsidies will total more than $2 billion. Despite this exorbitant cost the projects will deliver no environmental benefits and, most likely, will contribute to global warming. How did this lose-lose situation come about?
Two months ago, Maryland regulators signed off on the state’s first two offshore wind farms.
In May, the Maryland Public Service Commission approved electricity-rate increases to fund two wind projects off the Ocean City shoreline. Over their 20-year life spans, these projects will cost Maryland electricity consumers more than $2 billion. Will they deliver economic benefits that justify their costs? Almost certainly not.
The Maryland Public Service Commission has sided with a public utility law judge’s order denying a wind-power developer’s request to construct a 17-turbine wind farm on Dan’s Mountain, effectively killing the project.
The developers of two wind farms planned off the coast of Ocean City are moving forward with their projects, accepting terms Maryland regulators laid out earlier this month in allowing them to collect subsidies from the state's electricity customers.
“Think about what 200 windmills would do to the sunrise,” James said to Harris on May 11. “People come here to enjoy that. They’ll be walking on the beach, seeing these things that are 670 feet tall. They say we’ll benefit from this, but it’s Delaware, Virginia and New Jersey beaches that’s going to benefit.”
The PSC decision comes just a week after the Mayor and Council fired off another strongly worded letter to the regulatory agency expressing a desire to have the offshore turbines sited at least 26 miles off the coast, or a distance determined to far enough out to have a zero visual impact from the shoreline.
Maryland waters could be home to some of the nation's first — and by far its largest — offshore wind farms under a decision issued Thursday by the state Public Service Commission to approve two projects.
OCEAN CITY — With the clock ticking on a Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) decision on one of two offshore wind project proposals off the coast of Ocean City, or perhaps both, resort officials this week decided to fire off another letter expressing their desire to have the turbines far enough beyond the horizon to have zero visual impact on the town.
Councilman Tony DeLuca, who first asked the council send a letter of opposition to the U.S. Wind’s proposal, still had reservations about this project’s visual impact. “I’ve talked to three engineers and all of them told me that with the curvature of the earth and the horizon, they would have to be at least 26 miles offshore to be not visible at all,” DeLuca said.
US Wind reached out to the town offering to move the wind farm another five miles out, if need be. While council member and secretary Mary Knight expressed optimism in US Wind's willingness to compromise, her concerns still remained that the projects could have a negative impact on Ocean City.
“US Wind understands the council’s opinions regarding viewshed impacts of the offshore wind project and has taken these publicly expressed concerns seriously,” the letter reads. “To further address your concerns, US Wind remains willing to discuss altering the current wind project layout in an attempt to reduce viewshed impacts for Ocean City."
Other than arguing that these wind farms would be good for the planet and reduce our dependence on foreign oil or domestic coal, there isn’t one thing in these proposals that Ocean City government can take to its constituents and its visitors and say, “Look, here’s what we stand to gain, so balance that out with what we stand to lose.”