OCEAN CITY – Visibility was the top concern amongst Mayor and City Council members this week, as they heard the latest updates on the potential offshore wind farm off the coast of Ocean City.
Bluewater Wind came before the Mayor and Council this week in an effort to keep the community updated on the potential offshore wind park, one they hope will come to fruition no later than 2013.
“I really believe that it’s time to support projects like this. We need to take a good hard look at renewable energies and offshore wind parks,” said Dave Blazer of Bluewater.
Bluewater recently inked a deal with Delmarva Power in Delaware to build a wind farm 11.5 miles off the Delaware coast. It will be the first of its kind in the United States for Bluewater, but the wind energy company is no stranger to offshore wind farms, which have been working effectively in parts of Europe since 1991.
“In the beginning, Delmarva Power was a reluctant partner at the table…but after a while we found a common ground,” said Jim Lanard with Bluewater.
The end result will be 60 to 70 wind turbines off the Delaware coast that will bring energy to 50,000 households in Delaware.
Bluewater aims to start building the Delaware wind park in 2012. Maryland could follow en suite, with construction beginning in 2013 if all goes as planned for Bluewater.
The Maryland offshore wind park would sit 12 to 17 miles off of Ocean City. As many as two hundred turbines would harness wind energy and provide energy to 136,000 Maryland households.
So why offshore wind? According to Lanard, it’s free, stable and a constant source of energy off the mid-Atlantic region.
“Our fuel is free, the wind is always free. That stable pricing is very attractive to utilities,” he said.
Council member Jim Hall questioned the stability of residents’ energy bills, pointing out that only 10 percent of energy bills would be affected by wind energy.
“We would still have 90 percent, at least, of fluctuation in our bills,” he said.
Jobs would also be generated, pointed out Lanard, estimating 400 to 500 jobs that will be created for up to three years in Delaware during construction, as well as an additional 80 to 100 jobs that will be needed in the long term.
While the Mayor and Council did not argue the merits of alternate energy sources, concerns arose regarding visibility.
“Obviously, one of the biggest concerns is the visual impact on Ocean City,” said Council member Nancy Howard.
Lanard assured that the turbines, 256 feet in height above sea level, would only appear to be half the size of a thumbnail and as thin as a toothpick from shore, with visibility minimal at best on the clearest winter day.
“Visibility and birds are the two primary concerns that people have,” said Lanard.
“I’m stimulated by your ideas, but I don’t want to see them either,” said Hall.
According to Lanard, 12 miles is as far as they can place the turbines. Cables connecting the turbines to a substation on shore are costly, running roughly $1,000 per foot.
Pictures depicting what the view of the wind farm would look like from the beaches of Ocean City were presented to the council on Tuesday, with images generated from a variety of viewpoints and for a variety of weather conditions.
Council member Jay Hancock, who had a chance to review the photos, did not see a visual threat to Ocean City.
“What you can see is it’s not a visual impact at all, in my opinion. The potential that builds into wind power is just remarkable,” he said.
“I think the wind power is well overdue. It should have been done a long time ago,” agreed Council member Lloyd Martin.
Martin suggested that anyone harboring concerns about visibility take a boat 12 miles offshore and look back at the resort high rises for a better idea of visibility from that distance.
Council member Mary Knight noted the benefits of the artificial reef that the turbines will create.
“In my mind, besides renewable energy, you’re creating some great fishing 12 miles offshore,” she said.
Mayor Rick Meehan questioned why turbines would not be placed off of Assateague. According to Lanard, the underground cables must connect to substations already built in Ocean City, leaving the coast of Assateague as an unviable option.
“Wouldn’t we want to see how this process unfolds?,” asked Meehan, questioning whether it would be wise to construct the second offshore U.S. wind farm just a year after the first.
“I don’t want to sound cavalier, but there’s 28 wind parks in Europe. There is really nothing new here,” said Lanard.
Both Blazer and Lanard noted that Bluewater is currently in the very early stages of planning and negotiating for the Maryland off shore wind Park, but promised to keep the community well informed and educated on the potential wind park.
By Ali Baker, Staff Writer
18 July 2008
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