OCEAN CITY – The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a second round of offshore wind farm projects, which could greatly expand the spread of significant turbines off the resort coast.
Last Friday, the PSC approved offshore renewable energy credits, or ORECs, for two, second-phase offshore wind energy projects off the coast of Ocean City. In 2017, the PSC approved ORECs for two projects including US Wind’s Marwin project and Orsted’s Skipjack 1 project.
Those first-phase projects are currently going through the federal review process with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). Even before the first wind turbine has been anchored to the ocean floor for either of those first-phase projects, both US Wind and Orsted applied to the PSC for another round of ORECs for a future phase.
BOEM, which must issue its own approval, has designated a Wind Energy Area (WEA) off the coast of Ocean City of about 80,000 acres. Both of the second-phase projects would be sited in that WEA. Orsted’s Skipjack 1 project would generate 120-megawatts. The proposed Skipjack 2 would generate 760 megawatts, or about six times the size of the initial project. It would be sited about 20 miles off the coast of the resort. Skipjack 1 is proposed to be sited about 19.5 miles off the coast, by comparison.
Similarly, US Wind’s Marwin project would include 22 turbines about 17 miles off the coast. It’s proposed Momentum Wind project would include 82 turbines.
Local elected officials testified during the PSC public hearing in September they remained adamant about siting the first line of turbines for both projects at least 30 miles from the shoreline. Both US Wind and Orsted have claimed increasing the size of the wind turbines will allow the companies to reduce the number of turbines and lessen the impact on the resort’s viewshed.
Nonetheless, PSC officials said upon approving the two second-phase projects last week the next round will expedite Maryland’s efforts to achieve its renewable energy goals, a position supported by the Biden administration and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
“The effects of climate change are real, and with its more than 3,000 miles of tidal shoreline, Marylanders are especially vulnerable,” said PSC Chairman Jason Stanek. “That’s why it is important for the commission to take this action that will put our state on a path of deeper decarbonization and help Maryland achieve its aggressive clean energy goals. The residents of our state and region deserve no less.”
The PSC approval comes with conditions. For example, the PSC is requiring that the developers create a minimum of 10,000 direct jobs during the development, construction and operating phases of the projects, commit to certain goals to engage small, local and minority businesses, pass 80% of the construction cost savings back to the ratepayers and contribute $6 million each to the Maryland Offshore Wind Business Development Fund. Both companies will also be required to mitigate any potential adverse environmental, noise and lighting impacts during development, construction and operation.
The PSC’s conditional approval also obligates both companies to use port facilities at Tradepoint Atlantic in the Baltimore area, and in Ocean City for marshaling, operations and maintenance activities. Ocean City officials requested the PSC require all turbines to be located at least 30 miles from shore, but the commission declined to take that step since the projects will be sited in federal waters and subject to BOEM review.
However, the commission will require both companies to use the best commercially reasonable efforts to minimize the daytime and nighttime viewshed impacts of the projects, regardless of the outcome of the federal review process. The PSC also noted the approval of the two second-phase projects will not leave any room for additional projects in the future and has closed the anticipated next two application periods for years two and three.
For its part, Orsted officials praised the PSC approval for its second-phase Skipjack 2 project.
“We are honored that Maryland’s Public Service Commission selected Orsted as a trusted partner in helping the state reach its ambitious renewable energy goals, and we’re proud that we’re once again able to leverage our market-leading portfolio of offshore wind projects to attract major supply chain companies to set up local manufacturing operations in Maryland,” said Orsted Offshore North America CEO David Hardy. “Skipjack 2 will contribute significantly to Maryland’s goal of sourcing 50% of its power from renewable energy sources by 2030, while positioning Maryland as a long-term offshore wind energy manufacturing hub. We look forward to delivering on our commitments now, and well into the future, so that Maryland residents will benefit from offshore wind for decades to come.”
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