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Huge crowd has its say on wind farms off Maryland and Delaware coast, now the wait begins

OCEAN CITY, Md.- It is now a waiting game for those hoping for changes to two large winds farms off the coasts of Maryland and Delaware. A standing room only crowd of several hundred people descended in Ocean City on Saturday to hear and be heard on the issue.

This past fall, the two companies hoping to build the wind farms increased the size of the turbines used to generate power to over 850 feet. Ocean City’s mayor, Rick Meehan, is adamantly opposed to the increased size, fearing it would be unsightly from the coast. Meehan suggests that would hurt tourism, the town’s primary economic driver, and potentially decrease homeowners’ property values.

U.S. Wind, the company that would manage the wind farm, says larger turbines would require fewer of them, farther off shore, thus minimizing their impact. Meehan and Andy Harris, U.S, representative for the Eastern Shore, are dubious of that claim.

On Saturday, the Maryland Public Service Commission held the public hearing at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City to hear from both sides. Meehan says he is not opposed to clean energy, or the project itself; it is simply the size of the turbines, and their proximity to the shore that are troubling.

“We support the new jobs this project would create, and we support the economic benefits, and we support everything related to these projects. The only thing we ask is that these projects be moved farther from our shoreline and out of our viewshed here in Ocean City,” said Meehan.

U.S. Wind and the town of Ocean City have offered differing renderings of how the larger turbines would look from the shore, with the town’s view showing them much closer, and U.S. Wind’s picture making them barely perceptible.

A spokesperson for Orsted Wind, which would build the Delaware wind farm known as Skipjack, contends the renderings are their best approximation.

“”That is what we have right now. On the clearest days, you saw from our renderings, they will be barely visible on the horizon,” said Joy Webber, Orsted Wind Development Manager.

Although that farm would be off Delaware’s coast, the power it generates would benefit Maryland, a fact not lost on Delaware Governor John Carney, who did not attend the public hearing.

“The thing that is a little bit disturbing is that is for energy and things that go to the state of Maryland,” said Carney. “Having said that, it is also a venue that in the future could be something that could generate electricity for Delaware.”

As many as 100 people spoke at the hearing, offering differing views.

“I think it is important that we realize we are facing a climate emergency, which certainly supersedes anything having to do with a view of a windmill or not,” said one pro-wind farm advocate.

“I recommend you make adjustments to these requests and require the turbines be further out. We do not want to see the turbines,” said a person against the project.

Still to be determined is where the power would come on shore, though the state of Delaware is in discussions regarding a site in Fenwick Island.

Meehan’s goal for the hearing is to have the Maryland PSC hold an evidentiary hearing regarding the turbine size and distance from the shore. A decision on that will come at a later date.

A federal agency will ultimately decide if and when the wind farms would be built.