OCEAN CITY – Bluewater Wind representatives talked up their plans for a wind farm off the coast of the resort, along the way assuring the Town Council that the company’s 25-story white turbines will be only barely visible from shore.
Wind power is “ready for prime time, on the market now, ready for use,” said Jim Lanard with Bluewater. “The wind is free. Our fuel prices never change.”
Indeed, Lanard said the company does not plan to increase prices at all during the life of its 20-year contract because, simply, wind doesn’t cost them anything.
Lanard and Dave Blazer, Bluewater’s project lead for Maryland, explained how the company could build its 200-turbine offshore wind farm closer to the beach, but instead, plans to build 12 miles out in deference to people who don’t want the giant steel windmills churning any closer to the shoreline than necessary – for instance, people like Mayor Rick Meehan.
“We don’t want to see them. Standing on the beach, we don’t want to see them,” he said during the council’s work session Tuesday afternoon.
Councilman Jim Hall echoed the mayor’s sentiment, saying the project could prove far more popular if the turbines were invisible from land.
“If you can’t see it,” Hall said, “then you can add acres and acres of wind farms. I think people are going to eat it up.”
For Bluewater, it’s an expensive courtesy. Lanard said pushing the turbines farther out to sea makes it more expensive. It costs $1,000 for every foot of cable connecting the wind farm to the shore. They will have four such cables, Lanard said, stretching 12 miles each.
Doing the math, that’s about $253 million to lay the cable at that distance. If Bluewater installed turbines at the three-mile minimum – where federal waters begin – the cable would cost about $63 million.
Lanard said the waters off Ocean City are a prime location for the proposed wind farm because of the proximity to the resort itself as a main user of power and because it’s a straight shot back to shore to link with planned electrical substations.
For each turbine, steel foundations are buried 90 feet into the sea floor. The metal base continues 75-100 feet in the ocean, and then extends 256 feet to its apex, where the center of the pinwheel-like fan connects. The farms will be built completely with private funds. No federal or state dollars will fund the project, Lanard said.
Wind farm technology is already in use globally but none exist yet in the United States. Bluewater has worked to build 22 of the world’s 28 wind farms and plans to open the first American facility in Delaware, off Rehoboth Beach, by 2012. Maryland’s would conceivably be the second in the U.S., built by 2013, Lanard said.
Delaware’s 60-70 turbine wind farm will power 50,000 homes, while the Maryland project is expected to power 136,000 homes. Wind farms also are planned for Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey.
By Brian Shane
16 July 2008
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