The second BOEM meeting on the U.S. Wind project off the coast of Ocean City, Md., and with cable power landfall at North Bethany Beach, was more spirited than the first. Still, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is racing through these hearings on the environmental review process – with U.S. Wind permitting likely in 2024 and initial construction 10 nautical miles from OC’s shoreline in 2025. The “scoping” meetings based on construction and operations plans concluded Monday, June 27, and written comment will end July 8.
U.S. Wind and Orsted received encouragement from the White House last week with President Biden joining 11 governors from the eastern seaboard states, including Gov. Carney, to launch a new partnership to increase the offshore wind supply chain. The Administration, under the Department of the Interior, is focused on increasing manufacturing for wind energy components, expanding seaports and providing workforce training for these new energy jobs.
The wind projects that will now undergo environmental review and receive an Environmental Impact Statement from BOEM include both MarWin and Momentum Wind developments, and any subsequent development within U.S. Wind’s lease area, and is referred to collectively as the Maryland Offshore Wind Project. Two more wind farms have been proposed to be built offshore in Maryland and were awarded ORECs by the state: Skipjack 1 and Skipjack 2, developed by Ørsted, which also plans to develop them as one project.
“Together we’re stepping up,” said President Joe Biden. “We’re about to build a better America,” Biden said. “It’s not just about the future. It’s about right now.” The partnership comprises governors of both parties from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. So far, the Biden Administration under Interior has launched ten offshore wind developments.
Jeff Grybowski, CEO of U.S. Wind, stated, “The creation of a Federal-State Offshore Wind Partnership is exactly what our nation needs to create a booming offshore wind energy industry that will employ many thousands of Americans in new union jobs. The discussion (with the President) about the steps we can take to build out this new industry even faster and bigger left me energized and excited about the prospects for clean American energy.” U.S. Wind will be part of the supply chain expansion with its turbine steel mill facility coming to Sparrow’s Point, Baltimore to build the giant blades for offshore wind locally.
David Hardy, CEO of Ørsted, also attended the White House meeting on June 23 and said Ørsted has already invested in wind power and stimulated some $2 billion in investments into the American supply chain. “Our projects and supply chain partners are creating thousands of jobs as we build, manufacture and assemble all of the materials needed for this industry.”
Ørsted, a Danish company, made special note of its relationship with U.S. Labor. “Ørsted has recently signed America’s first National Offshore Wind Agreement with North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) to use union labor for the construction of all of our wind farms,” he said.
“I am encouraged to hear the commitments today for a responsible permitting and review process that is more efficient and a lease auction process that incentives investments in the supply chain.”
Not every BOEM witness was positive about these latest developments. Terry McGean, Ocean City’s City Manager, who served over three decades in OC government and was the City Engineer for the city when wind power companies first development siting and location plans, believes there has been a bait and switch in these negotiations.
“I was told by BOEM that there would be no visual impact from these wind farms,” testified McGean at the second Scope Meeting. “We had good faith representations from BOEM. Ocean City did not oppose the lease area or the OREC because of these assurances.”
McGean said initial plans called for turbines about 300 feet in height and now the proposed MarWin blades are two times that height, he said. “What was once a distance of 13 miles will now seem like only seven miles away,” with the new turbine length.
“Nothing has been done to directly address our viewshed objections,” said the City Manager.
Ocean City management also called attention to a tourism study submitted to BOEM as justification for the wind farms which focused on visitors taking “trips” to the beach rather than their rental housing experience. He cited a North Carolina State tourism study of beachgoers which stated that up to 50 percent of vacationers would not return to a beach with large turbine views in the viewshed.
“We have eight million beach visitors here and this drives $9 billion in real estate property values,” said McGean, all in about a three-mile OC beach radius. McGean urged BOEM to study the impact on property and to reduce the scope of the two projects or push them further offshore.
BOEM has completed an environmental impact assessment on beach recreation available for public review. The public may also comment by mail: BOEM – Attn. Program Manager; Officer of Renewable Energy Programs; 45600 Woodland Rd.; Sterling, VA 20166 or online at: www.regulations.gov and enter the BOEM-2022-0025 project.
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