OCEAN CITY – You can’t point to offshore wind turbines from the beach yet, but you can now point to a map to see where they’ll be allowed to go.
The federal government recently announced it will begin accepting bids from private developers interested in building wind turbines off the Ocean City coastline, as part of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s goal to produce 20 percent of Maryland’s energy from renewable sources by 2022 as well as a means to create thousands of jobs on the Eastern Shore.
The government also said it had mapped out a section of open water where it would be best to situate the machines. The area would be located well off of Ocean City’s popular beaches, located at least 10 nautical miles or 11.5 statute miles, off the resort’s coast and 20 nautical miles – or 23 statute miles – off the Assateague Island National Seashore.
Ian Hines, spokesman for the Maryland Energy Administration, says on a clear day the turbines may be visible from shoreline – but not by much.
“On a very clear, winter day, people may be able to see the turbines from shore, but they would appear about the size of a fingernail,” said Hines. “On a hot, hazy summer day they might not be visible at all.”
In terms of tourism impact on the resort community, Hines doesn’t expect any impact.
Worcester County Tourism Director Lisa Challenger does not believe the project will have a negative impact on tourism either. Just the opposite, she said.
“Honestly, with this whole green movement, it may even attract people,” said Challenger. “(Turbines) are becoming commonplace, and people are more and more accepting of them.”
The proposal was also hailed by O’Malley, who joined the Maryland Energy Administration and the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement in supporting offshore wind power on Maryland’s 31-mile coast.
“(This) announcement marks another step forward for Maryland’s new economy,” said O’Malley in a statement. “By harnessing the outstanding wind resources off Maryland’s coast, we can create thousands of green collar jobs, reduce harmful air pollution, and bring much needed, additional clean energy to Maryland.”
Congressman-elect Andy Harris, R-1st-Md., said in an interview he is in favor of domestic energy sources, including wind, but feels jobs creation should be the government’s top priority.
“Our first priority should be to get our economy back on track,” said Harris in a statement. “Once we’ve done that, we should look at all possible ways to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources by developing domestic energy sources like wind and natural gas.”
The O’Malley administration estimates the project, which will be confined to a 227 nautical-square-mile area, could create up to one gigawatt of power from approximately 300 wind turbines, which could eventually be there.
“The mid-Atlantic coast is like the Saudi Arabia of offshore wind resources,” said Hines.
Throughout a five-year development period, the O’Malley administration estimates as many as 4,000 manufacturing and construction jobs could be created, in addition to 800 permanent jobs once the turbines begin spinning.
This announcement makes Maryland the second state to get ocean leasing approval from the federal government. Delaware secured permission to lease a section off its southern coast earlier this year.
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