Plan Pitched To Accelerate Coastal Wind Farm Effort

OCEAN CITY – The
governors of Maryland and Delaware this week sent a letter to President Obama
requesting a federal partnership in the development of clean energy off the
mid-Atlantic coast, which could accelerate the effort to construct wind farms
off the coast of Ocean City.

On Wednesday, Maryland
Governor Martin O’Malley and Delaware Governor Jack Markel sent a letter to
Obama applauding the president for his commitment to clean energy and green job
development, while presenting an opportunity for a unique partnership between
the two states and the federal government to expand and accelerate the
development of wind farms off the mid-Atlantic coast. Already, there are plans
in place for a wind farm off Delaware to produce 200-megawatts of electric
power and a similar plan is in the works to develop a wind farm about 12 miles
off Ocean City to produce an additional 55 megawatts of power.

In their letter to the
president on Wednesday, O’Malley and Markel are seeking to create a partnership
with the federal government to expand on the existing plan with a proposal to
create one gigawatt of wind energy off the mid-Atlantic coast, essentially
quadrupling the proposals now in the various steps in the approval process. The
plans for Delaware and Maryland now on the table include a combined 255 mw,
while expanding to 1 gw would be the equivalent of 1,000 mw.

The letter explains
expanding the proposed development of wind energy off the mid-Atlantic enhance
energy security and fuel diversity, reduce harmful pollutants and greenhouse
gas emissions and encourage a vibrant U.S. clean energy industry.

“Collectively, these
reasons demonstrate the imperative need to accelerate the development of offshore
wind energy in the mid-Atlantic,” the letter reads. “To that end, we would like
to present an opportunity for a unique partnership between the federal
government, Maryland and Delaware.”

According to the letter,
the proximity of potential wind farms off the coasts of Maryland and Delaware
to the large metropolitan areas including Washington, D.C., coupled with the
number of federal agencies and military installations in and around the D.C.
metropolitan region, creates an exceptional opportunity to forge a
federal-state partnership for expanding the development off wind energy off the
coast of the two states. In addition, the letter estimates a combined power
purchase agreement for one gigawatt of wind energy in the mid-Atlantic region
would create 15,000 to 20,000 high-paying clean energy jobs.

One private sector
company, NRG Bluewater Wind based in New Jersey, has taken the lead on wind
energy development in the mid-Atlantic and has a wind farm up and running off
the coast of Atlantic City. NRG Bluewater has a power purchase agreement for
200 mw with Delmarva Power for its project under development off the coast of
Delaware and a similar commitment with the state of Maryland for 55mw of energy
from a proposed wind farm 12 miles off the coast of Ocean City.

NRG Bluewater founder
and president Peter Mandelstam said this week the company applauded the
governors’ letter to the president.

“It really depends on
how quickly the federal government responds to the request,” he said. “We stand
ready to move forward as we have been for some time. It’s unclear just what the
letter will mean in terms of expediting these projects, but we know the Obama
administration is committed creating good, clean energy jobs and stabilizing
energy costs just as we are. To that end, we certainly applaud the governors of
Maryland and Delaware for attempting to accelerate these projects.”

Mandelstam said NRG
Bluewater said the letter to the president has the potential to expedite what
has become a tedious approval process.

“The most important
thing that could come out of this is streamlining the approval process and
eliminating some of the hurdles,” he said. “We’re not trying to get past any of
the steps in the approval process, we’d just like to see it expedited
somewhat.”

From the beginning,
there has been some concerns raised locally about the potential visible impact
of the roughly 200 wind turbines about 12-15 miles off the coast of Ocean City,
each of which is expected to be about 250 feet tall. However, Mandelstam
downplayed the impact.

“We’ve heard the
concerns about the viewscapes in Ocean City and we’ve done a considerable
amount of outreach and education,” he said. “We are confident people won’t be
able to see the turbines at all on most days and maybe only a small sliver on
the horizon on the clearest of winter days. There should be zero impact in
Maryland.”

He also said the visual
impacts of existing wind farms have been embraced by former skeptics in many
cases.

“In Atlantic City, the
rooms at the Borgata with views of the wind farm off the coast are some of the
most requested by their guests,” he said. “In Europe, they’ve been widely
accepted for decades and have become tourist attractions on their own. In
Copenhagen, for example, there is a wind farm just two miles from the dock
where the famous statue of the Little Mermaid is, and people frame their shots
to get the turbines in the background.”

 

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