Offshore Wind Environmental Studies To Start

OCEAN CITY — The next crucial step in the evolution of a potential offshore wind farm off the coast of Ocean City is now pending after two state agencies last week announced they were partnering on an environmental study of the target area.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) late last week announced the two agencies had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to partner on environmental surveys necessary for the development of offshore wind energy off the resort coast. The environmental studies will allow the DNR to expand its coastal and ocean survey work.

The hope is by conducting targeted environmental surveys in Maryland’s designated Wind Energy Area, an area about 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City covering 94 square miles, or roughly 79,000 acres, the DNR and MEA will be able to reduce some of the environmental and economic uncertainties that have muddled the process.

“The environmental surveys are the next step forward in order to ensure that offshore wind energy generation comes to Maryland,” said MEA Acting Director Abigail Ross Hopper this week. “An offshore wind farm off Maryland’s coast will bring numerous benefits to the state including homegrown clean energy, sustainable jobs, reduced public health costs, lower greenhouse gas emissions and significant progress toward meeting our renewable energy portfolio standard.”

The partner agencies have developed a strategy to collect and analyze essential data on possible impacts on the habitat of marine mammals, sea turtles and fish and migratory bird populations.

“An understanding of ocean habitats and marine life is fundamental to protecting our natural resources and wisely developing offshore wind energy,” said DNR Secretary John Griffin this week. “This new research will further our understanding of these marine habitats and communities and will provide the information needed for future environmental reviews and decision-making.”

A report released last month found Maryland could install nearly 15,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy using current technology, which would be enough to satisfy 67 percent of the state’s current energy needs. Early proposals have called for anywhere from 40 to 100 wind turbines off the coast, falling well short of that ambitious 15,000 megawatt figure.