Ocean City officials and wind farm developer U.S. Wind have been in a long and drawn-out fight over plans to build wind turbines in the area. Now U.S. Wind is offering free electricity to quell concerns.
Wind turbines are becoming an increasingly common sight in the United States as we become more aware of environmental concerns and clean energy alternatives. While the wind turbines are more environmentally friendly, they have caused some debate surrounding aesthetic concerns.
This debate is currently occurring in the beach and tourist town of Ocean City, where town officials are fighting back against plans to build wind turbines offshore of the local beaches. The plan was approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission over a year ago, but the details of the project have still not been settled between town officials and U.S. Wind.
According to U.S. Wind, the energy developer in charge of the project, the company currently holds a lease for their project which will build 32 turbines 17 miles offshore of Ocean City. The project would be the nation’s largest offshore wind farm and will help Maryland make major strides towards renewable energy use.
Courtesy of U.S. Wind
According to their website, “The Maryland project is expected to produce up to 250 MW of power, which will meet 100 percent of Maryland’s off-shore wind renewable energy goals. This is enough power for more than +/- 76,000 Maryland homes.”
The website also points out the benefits local workers will receive as the project is estimated to support hundreds of highly skilled jobs in engineering, construction, and operation.
Ocean City officials are still far from supportive of the project. Officials have voiced their concerns that the wind turbines will harm tourism because they will ruin the scenery of the beach. The Baltimore Sun also reports that city officials are worried that the project will morph into something different than first proposed. While the town officials are not inherently against clean energy, they are worried the wind turbines will be too close to the beach.
The Ocean City mayor, Rick Meehan, has spoken against the proposed project and shared a petition on his Facebook page to push the wind turbines at least 26 nautical miles back. He said the petition will support “green, UNSEEN energy.”
The general counsel of U.S. Wind Salvo Vitale told the Baltimore Sun that it is not possible to build the turbines farther than 17 nautical miles from the shore for a federally approved offshore wind leasing area.
Windpower Engineering & Development examined studies conducted on the visual effects of wind turbines as a result of the Ocean City proposal. The company found multiple studies which show that wind turbines have little effect on the property value of houses near the turbines. One study even found that wind turbines in multiple U.S. and international sites have served as a tourist attraction.
Ocean City officials point to a separate study that found that 54 percent of tourists would not rent a vacation home again if wind turbines were visible.
To quell concerns from Ocean City officials, U.S. Wind offered them an agreement to explore low-cost or free electricity along with a community benefits package. U.S. Wind also said they are open to seeking federal approval to move the project to a new location if the town would agree to pay associated costs.
The city officials remained unconvinced and rejected the offers, claiming the high costs of relocating the project along with other reasons. Mayor Meehan said about the offer, “Our view is not for sale.”
Courtesy of Sunny Day Guide
For now, it seems the fight will continue. Ocean City officials are still working to have the wind turbines pushed back, and U.S. Wind has said they will move forward with their plans. The company still has a few steps to complete, including presenting their plan to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
What do you think? Do you support the wind turbines? Think they will be an eyesore? Let us know in the comments below!