Fishermen Briefed On Wind Farm Proposal

OCEAN CITY – Maryland anglers this week got an in-depth look a private sector proposal to develop a power generating wind farm 12 miles off the coast of Ocean City, and while they were generally impressed with the presentation, the group is withholding any judgment on the plan until all of the facts are weighed.

On Tuesday, Bluewater Wind spokesman Dave Blazer made a formal presentation of the proposal to develop a wind farm 12 miles off the coast of the resort to the Maryland Saltwater Sportsfishermen’s Association (MSSA), outlining the project’s potential impacts on fishing. According to the plan, the wind farm would consist of 200 wind turbines standing nearly 30 stories tall about a half a mile apart.

With the increased effort to wean the nation off of its dependence on fossil fuels and explore alternative energy sources, harnessing wind power is gaining popularity in many coastal areas of the country. Neighboring Delaware already has an agreement with Bluewater Wind to develop a similar wind farm off its coast and the company is exploring the possibility of developing a similar project off Maryland’s coast.

Offshore wind farms are capable of producing large amounts of electricity with little or no damage to the environment, according to Blazer, former executive director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. According to the proposal for the wind farm off the coast of Ocean City, each of the 200 turbines would produce around three megawatts of electricity, or around 600 megawatts total, which would be enough to power 130,000 homes in Maryland.

“Environmentally, this just makes perfect sense,” Blazer told MSSA members on Tuesday.

Maryland is facing a potential energy generation crisis with shortfalls expected as early as 2011 and brown-outs and black-outs possible as early as 2013.

While no one argues with the concept, there have been reasons of concern voiced by several camps. Ocean City officials have taken a cautious approach to the proposal after voicing concern about the appearance of the 200 turbines off its coast. However, Bluewater officials have explained the turbines would be located 12 miles offshore and would only be visible on only the clearest of winter days, and even then they would appear about the size of one’s fingernail.

Bluewater officials presented the proposal to the MSSA this week to address other issues including potential impacts on fish migration patterns and possible navigation hazards. As to the former, Blazer explained the proposed wind farm should have no impact on migration patterns of the fish targeted off the coast of Ocean City. Instead, the turbines will likely enhance and create habitat, becoming artificial reefs of sorts.

“The proposed location of the wind farm is not in any way going to affect migration or habitat,” he said. “If anything, it will produce a spot for them to feed and possibly create a prime fishing location similar to the oil rigs in the Gulf.”

In terms of any potential navigation hazards, Blazer told MSSA members the turbines would erected a half mile apart from each other and there would be sufficient technologies in place from lights to GPS locations.

While MSSA officials listened attentively to the proposal and were generally pleased with the presentation, they didn’t officially embrace the idea, according to MSSA Atlantic Coast chapter president Bud Heim.

“Everybody was satisfied with the explanations and we were all very impressed with the presentation, but we’re taking a wait-and-see approach,” he said. “It will be hard for us to prove or disprove anything he presented, but we’ll weigh all of the facts and form an opinion on our own. We’ll stay on top of this, just as we do all issues related to fishing.”