The Maryland Public Service Commission will hold a hearing in Ocean City this month as part of an inquiry into the impact of taller wind turbines off Maryland’s coast.
The hearing will be held at noon on Saturday, Jan. 18, at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center, 4001 Coastal Highway, Ocean City, in rooms 215-217, according to a commission news release.
Members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on the plans for two offshore wind projects: The Skipjack Wind Farm, led by Danish company Ørsted, and the MarWin Wind Farm by Baltimore-based U.S. Wind, a subsidiary of the Italian renewable energy company Renexia.
The commission, which controls key ratepayer-funded subsidies for the projects, called for the review after project developers updated their plans in fall 2019 with taller, more powerful turbines.
The commission granted each the projects renewable energy credits in Mary 2017 in a decision that included dozens of conditions, including that the projects would make the best commercially-reasonable efforts to minimize their daytime and nighttime impacts on the view of the ocean from shore.
These “viewshed” impacts are at the heart of the debate over these projects and were in part what triggered the projects’ review, which occurred at the bequest of Ocean City officials concerned about a chilling effect taller turbines could have on tourism.
The hearing will be the first time since 2017 that Ocean City representatives will appear in front of the commission and be allowed to make their case.
The MarWin project’s new plan will reduce its number of turbines by half and move the entire farm three miles farther out to sea, to 20 miles away from the Ocean City beach. Spinning blades included, they will be 103 feet taller than the old windmills and produce double the power.
The Skipjack farm, 26 miles to the north, will use the largest turbines currently on the market, each producing 12 megawatts of power. No other changes are planned.
The commission has the power to impart drastic changes to the projects, including by revoking or modifying its original order.
Once built, the first phase of the MarWin Project is expected to generate enough energy to power more than 76,000 homes by 2023. The Skipjack farm is slated to come online in 2022, when its 15 turbines will have the capacity to generate 120 MW of energy at peak wind, or enough to power 35,000 homes, according to Ørsted.
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