Give Wind Farm Proposal Due Diligenc

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Here’s to hoping the latest wind farm proposal for off Ocean City’s coast goes over better than the one presented years ago.

Years ago, when a major wind farm was last pitched for miles off Ocean City, the man making the proposal was practically chased out of City Hall. It was difficult to find fault with the Mayor and Council at the time because the presenter was obnoxious and condescending. The presentation was a mess and the man’s responses to legitimate questions were derisive at best, and the council took umbrage over the treatment.

Despite the personality conflict between that council and the pitchman, the main problem with the proposal back then was the lack of detailed answers to the council’s questions, of which there are understandably numerous. There was this feeling the proposal was more of a pie-in-the-sky thing than something with a chance of actually happening.

Here’s what we know about the current proposal. Bluewater Wind of New Jersey is proposing 150 wind turbines be constructed in the ocean about 12 miles off the resort’s coast. The 40-foot tall turbines would provide enough energy to supply an estimated 110,000 homes, according to the company. From Ocean City, on the clearest of days, company officials say the turbines will appear to be about as big as half of a thumbnail. The company, which has similar projects underway off Delaware, Rhode Island and New York, has recently had preliminary talks with members of the Maryland Public Service Commission and the governor.

One major question is where and how the power generated by these wind turbines will come ashore and how it will be transformed into reusable energy. It would certainly be impractical for the power lines to come ashore anywhere in the concrete jungle that is Ocean City, but it’s unknown how critical that is for the project. In addition, there will need to be a backup plant, such as the natural gas facility on the table in Delaware, to provide for spells when the wind does not generate the required energy. There are lots of complexities here that need to be considered. Delaware is dealing with many of those today, although the first state seems adamant about seeing this proposal through to fruition.

In our story last week, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said he was open-minded about the proposal and looks forward to hearing a formal presentation of the concept in the near future. That’s good to hear. However, in a story in The Baltimore Sun two weeks ago, some local business people said they would be against anything they could see from land. In other words, anything that obstructs the view of the horizon would be no good. That’s a silly approach that needs more consideration.

We need to look beyond artificial problems and give this concept its due diligence. In this day of gas prices consistently hanging in the $2.50 to $3 per gallon range, due largely to an unquenchable reliance on foreign oil, anything that creates a new energy source deserves attention.

It’s way too early in the game to endorse this proposal, but the concept and the benefits it creates deserves serious attention and should not be simply ignored because of unknown issues that may or may not ever be pertinent to the overall discussion.

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