City Council Concerned About Seeing Wind Turbines

OCEAN CITY –
Visibility was the top concern amongst Mayor and City Council members this
week, as they heard the latest updates on the potential offshore wind farm off
the coast of Ocean City.

Bluewater Wind came
before the Mayor and Council this week in an effort to keep the community
updated on the potential offshore wind park, one they hope will come to
fruition no later than 2013.

“I really believe that
it’s time to support projects like this. We need to take a good hard look at
renewable energies and offshore wind parks,” said Dave Blazer of Bluewater.

Bluewater recently inked
a deal with Delmarva Power in Delaware to
build a wind farm 11.5 miles off the Delaware
coast. It will be the first of its kind in the United
States for Bluewater, but the wind energy company is no
stranger to offshore wind farms, which have been working effectively in parts
of Europe since 1991.

“In the beginning,
Delmarva Power was a reluctant partner at the table…but after a while we found
a common ground,” said Jim Lanard with Bluewater.

The end result will be
60 to 70 wind turbines off the Delaware coast
that will bring energy to 50,000 households in Delaware.

Bluewater aims to start
building the Delaware
wind park in 2012. Maryland
could follow en suite, with construction beginning in 2013 if all goes as
planned for Bluewater.

The Maryland
offshore wind park would sit 12 to 17 miles off of Ocean City.
As many as two hundred turbines would harness wind energy and provide energy to
136,000 Maryland
households.

So why offshore wind?
According to Lanard, it’s free, stable and a constant source of energy off the
mid-Atlantic region.

“Our fuel is free, the
wind is always free. That stable pricing is very attractive to utilities,” he
said.

Council member Jim Hall
questioned the stability of residents’ energy bills, pointing out that only 10
percent of energy bills would be affected by wind energy.

“We would still have 90
percent, at least, of fluctuation in our bills,” he said.

Jobs would also be
generated, pointed out Lanard, estimating 400 to 500 jobs that will be created
for up to three years in Delaware
during construction, as well as an additional 80 to 100 jobs that will be
needed in the long term.

While the Mayor and
Council did not argue the merits of alternate energy sources, concerns arose
regarding visibility.

“Obviously, one of the
biggest concerns is the visual impact on Ocean City,”
said Council member Nancy Howard.

Lanard assured that the
turbines, 256 feet in height above sea level, would only appear to be half the
size of a thumbnail and as thin as a toothpick from shore, with visibility
minimal at best on the clearest winter day.

“Visibility and birds
are the two primary concerns that people have,” said Lanard.

“I’m stimulated by your
ideas, but I don’t want to see them either,” said Hall.

According to Lanard, 12
miles is as far as they can place the turbines. Cables connecting the turbines
to a substation on shore are costly, running roughly $1,000 per foot.

Pictures depicting what
the view of the wind farm would look like from the beaches of Ocean City
were presented to the council on Tuesday, with images generated from a variety
of viewpoints and for a variety of weather conditions.

Council member Jay
Hancock, who had a chance to review the photos, did not see a visual threat to Ocean City.

“What you can see is
it’s not a visual impact at all, in my opinion. The potential that builds into
wind power is just remarkable,” he said.

“I think the wind power
is well overdue. It should have been done a long time ago,” agreed Council
member Lloyd Martin.

Martin suggested that
anyone harboring concerns about visibility take a boat 12 miles offshore and
look back at the resort high rises for a better idea of visibility from that
distance.

Council member Mary
Knight noted the benefits of the artificial reef that the turbines will create.

“In my mind, besides
renewable energy, you’re creating some great fishing 12 miles offshore,” she
said.

Mayor Rick Meehan
questioned why turbines would not be placed off of Assateague. According to
Lanard, the underground cables must connect to substations already built in Ocean City,
leaving the coast of Assateague as an unviable
option. 

“Wouldn’t we want to see
how this process unfolds?,” asked Meehan, questioning whether it would be wise
to construct the second offshore U.S. wind farm just a year after
the first.

“I don’t want to sound
cavalier, but there’s 28 wind parks in Europe.
There is really nothing new here,” said Lanard.

Both Blazer and Lanard
noted that Bluewater is currently in the very early stages of planning and
negotiating for the Maryland
off shore wind Park, but promised to keep the community well informed and
educated on the potential wind park.

 

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