Economist Outlines Offshore Wind Farm Potential

OCEAN CITY — While the potential offshore wind energy farm off the coast of Ocean City is still moving through its approval process, the time is now for the area’s private sector to get ready for the opportunity, an economist told local business leaders and politicians this month.

During an economic summit hosted by Worcester County Economic Development and the Ocean City Economic Development Committee (EDC) at the new Performing Arts Center last Wednesday, Dr. Memo Diriker, founding director of Salisbury University’s Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON), told those assembled a future offshore wind energy farm off the coast of Ocean City is moving closer to reality. Diriker advised local business leaders to begin preparing for the opportunities an offshore wind farm could present in as soon as five years.

“It looks like there should be steel in the water by late 2018 or early 2019,” he said. “It might be delayed somewhat by permitting and political reasons, but the power should be flowing about a year after that.”

In August, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) opened the online auction for the Maryland Wind Energy Area (WEA), two adjacent lease areas totaling 80,000 acres off the coast of Ocean City for the development of a future offshore wind energy farm. The Maryland WEA covers roughly 94 square nautical miles with its western edge roughly 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City and extending about 30 miles out.

The successful bidder was U.S. Wind, Inc., a Texas-based company with ties to a successful offshore wind developer in Italy, which bid on both lease areas with a combined investment of around $8.7 million. The lease agreements are currently going through the approval process with the Maryland Public Service Commission, and there are still many details to work out with the eventual design, where the distribution lines will ultimately come ashore and how the power generated will be distributed across the grid, for example. However, while the finished product is still at least five years out, Diriker advised local business leaders and politicians to stay out in front of the process.

“Only time will tell if it’s going to be courageously successful or folly,” he said. “You don’t know if you don’t take risks. This is not the time to sit down and deliberate.”

Diriker told summit attenders, at least those who remained to hear his presentation, the process to bring an offshore wind farm off the coast of Ocean City is now well underway.

“The lease has been awarded and the clock is ticking,” he said. “Offshore wind is not going away. It’s a global industry already and it’s gaining momentum here.”

Diriker said the wind farm off the coast of the resort has the potential provide an economic shot in the arm of the local economy and the environment on several fronts and urged local leadership to be prepared for it.

“Wind energy is creating opportunities,” he said. “Opportunity to create homegrown energy, a healthy environment, provide price stability and create jobs and improve the economy. U.S. Wind is going to invest $2 billion in the state economy in five years. The poultry contributes $3 billion annually and this represents an opportunity for another $2 billion. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s coming. The jobs associated with offshore wind energy are good jobs.”

The potential wind farm will create an estimated 850 jobs during the lengthy construction phase and as many as 200 well-paying, longer-term jobs once the facility is up and running. Diriker said there will many opportunities for the local private sector to take advantage of the opportunities created.

“The biggest prize locally will be the operation and maintenance of the offshore wind farm,” he said. “It’s in the owner’s best interest to keep costs down and hire locally and keep the infrastructure needed on the ground close to the facility.”

Diriker said the local economy is well situated to take advantage of the opportunities, but must begin preparing soon.

“The time to increase our capabilities locally is now,” he said. “It’s going to be a very complex facility in the middle of the ocean and we don’t have any time to waste. They’re going to need marine contractors, welders, electricians, and mechanics and we have those jobs on land already. We just have to be ready to adapt.”

Diriker also took some time to dismiss some early negative perceptions of the potential wind farm, including the proximity of the turbines to the coast.

“When you get close to them, they are very impressive,” he said. “We won’t be able to see them from the shore except on the clearest of days, and only then as a hazy silhouette.”

He also addressed the perception a potential wind farm will be paid for on the backs of taxpayers and consumers.

“There is a cap on what you and I will have to pay,” he said. “There are good consumer protections built into this.”


GIS Map Project Could Help Law Enforcement

SNOW HILL – A college project is expected to provide expanded access to GIS maps for Worcester County law enforcement. County officials agreed to allow Worcester County employee Mark Dunlevy to create a web-based mapping system as a school project as he pursues a master’s degree in GIS Management. The web-based system would allow the Worcester County State’s Attorney and … Continue reading

A Week In Business

Apple Discount Drugs owner, Jeff Sherr was joined by his staff and members of the Salisbury and Fruitland Chambers of Commerce and members of the Salisbury City and Wicomico County Council, at a ribbon cutting ceremony this month to celebrate the opening of the new Apple store in the Pecan Square Shopping Center. Submitted Photo         New Analyst Announced WILLARDS … Continue reading

UMES Holds 18th Winter Commencement

UMES held its 18th Winter Commencement last Friday. Among the graduates receiving their degrees were, from left, Shelton Handy, who was the student commencement speaker; Blessing Aroh, who became the first person to earn a Master of Science in chemistry degree; and Monica Dore, the first woman to receive an undergraduate degree in engineering from the school. Submitted Photos

SD High School Student Government Association Members Box Canned Goods During Annual Food Drive

Stephen Decatur High School Student Government Association members boxed over 2,500 pounds of canned goods collected during the annual food drive at the beginning of December. SDHS donated all non-perishable goods to the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department’s Santa House and Diakonia. Pictured are Trevor Mavioglu, Reagan Dunham, Maury Izzett, Shandon Foreman, Kolby Layton, Stephanie Marx and Trent Chetelat.

Decatur Students Complete Financial Course

BERLIN – Stephen Decatur High School students are adding a financial facet to their education thanks to a program offered through the Bank of Ocean City. Three dozen Stephen Decatur High School students were recognized last week for their completion of the EverFi Financial Literacy program. This is the fourth year the Bank of Ocean City has sponsored the program … Continue reading

Resort Prefers Highway Focus Be On Medians; Concerns Expressed Over ‘Road Diet’ Concept

OCEAN CITY – According to city officials, the words “road diet” and its $25 million cost were viewed negatively by and large, resulting in the Transportation Commission forwarding a recommendation to dedicate existing funding to a median barrier for now. Last week the State Highway Administration came before the Mayor and City Council to present the MD 528 (Coastal Highway) … Continue reading