Md. PSC reopens evidentiary hearing process for Ocean City offshore wind project over turbine size
Following calls from elected officials, residents, and others concerned about a proposal to install an offshore wind farm off the coast of Ocean City, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) has announced that it will hold two separate evidentiary hearings regarding the size of the turbines.
The decision to reopen the evidentiary process comes on the heels of a public hearing that was held on January 18 in Ocean City where thousands turned out from across Delmarva to discuss the proposal and voice their concerns.
Following that hearing, the PSC was inundated with several hundred written comments from concerned residents.
The PSC granted Ocean City’s petition request to review the new proposed turbine sizes for two wind energy projects that were approved in 2017.
For months, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan had called for the commission to reopen the evidentiary hearing process after it was learned that size of the turbines had increased with respect to what was initially proposed and later approved by the PSC.
“I think we were able to get across the main point to the Public Service Commission that the dramatic change in the size of these turbines that are now being proposed has changed from what was originally approved,” Mayor Meehan explained. “We were able to get that point across and they are going to reopen evidentiary hearings for both companies. I think that’s significant and it will really give us time to address what’s being proposed.”
The increase in the size of the turbines would make them visible – resort and area residents and visitors want the turbines farther offshore.
The proposal includes a total of 139 turbines, which stand 600 to 800 feet tall, located as close as 13 miles from the Ocean City shoreline. Photographic renderings show that these structures will be clearly visible from the beach and more visible from higher story buildings, according to the Town of Ocean City.
“With the construction of 139 windmills off Ocean City’s coast, each structure more than twice the height of the tallest building in Ocean City and blades the length of a football field, there is no questions they will be visible from our shoreline especially when they are lit up at night,” stated Mayor Meehan. “It is a threat to our environment, our property values, our economy, and the future of Ocean City. It is simply irresponsible.”
The Town of Ocean City is asking that the projects be moved further offshore in order to keep the pristine ocean view that residents and visitors know and love.
Wind farms proposed in Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks are all located more than 25 miles of the coast. The companies developing the Ocean City, Maryland project oppose the town’s efforts to move the wind farms because it will increase their costs and could delay construction, according to the Town of Ocean City.
“We understand the time and money that is potentially involved in moving the wind farms, but those concerns do not justify placing Ocean City’s future at risk,” Meehan continued. “These turbines are permanent installations. We only have one chance to make this right and if that means the projects get delayed or the developers make a little less profit, it will be money and time well spent to protect our Town.”
Two separate companies are proposing offshore wind farms off the coast of Delmarva, including the US Wind Maryland Lease Area Project, and the Skipjack Delaware Lease Area Project.
The PSC has decided to wait to hold the evidentiary hearings until the companies present them with finalized information on the size of the turbines which they have yet to do.