OCEAN CITY — One of the two companies holding permits for offshore wind energy farms off the coast announced it was planning on using 12-megwatt, 853-foot turbines described as the “world’s largest offshore wind turbine,” making the resort area a guinea pig of sorts for the fledgling industry in the U.S.
Last week, in response to a letter from Ocean City officials to Gov. Larry Hogan reiterating the town’s position not on renewable energy, but more specifically the distance of the proposed turbines from the shore, US Wind pointed out it was currently planning to use eight-megawatt turbines that would measure 643-feet in height. US Wind officials said despite the change in height, the increased capacity of the taller turbines would allow the company to reduce the number of turbines off the Ocean City coast by half, from the proposed 64 to 32.
Just days later, officials from the Danish company Orsted, which holds the permit for a second wind energy area (WEA) approved in 2017 by the Maryland Public Service Commission, announced it has chosen GE Renewable Energy as its preferred turbine supplier for two of its offshore wind energy projects in the mid-Atlantic region, including the Skipjack project off Maryland’s coast. Orsted’s other proposed project in its mid-Atlantic cluster is off the coast of New Jersey.
As a result, Orsted is now proposing to deploy GE Renewable Energy’s Haliade-X 12-megawatt wind turbines in its Skipjack project off Ocean City’s coast. The Haliade-X 12-megawatt has been described by GE Renewable Energy as the “world’s largest offshore wind turbine,” and its proposed use off the Ocean City coast would be the first commercial deployment in the world, according to a release from Orsted.
Again, US Wind last week confirmed it was planning on using an eight-megawatt wind turbine in its project off the coast of Ocean City, which measures 643 feet tall. By comparison, the Century I condominium building, the tallest building in Ocean City, measures 241 feet in height. The iconic Washington Monument is 555 feet tall, by way of further comparison.
Now, Orsted has announced it is planning to deploy the Haliade-X 12-megawatt turbine, which, at 853 feet, is nearly four times taller than the Century I and over 200 feet taller than US Wind’s proposed eight-megawatt turbine. By way of further comparison, the Eiffel Tower is 1,063 feet fall, or just about 200-feet taller than Orsted’s proposed turbines off the coast of Ocean City. The Chrysler Building featured prominently on New York City’s skyline is 1,046 feet tall, while the iconic Empire State Building is 1,250 feet tall.
In the letter to Hogan last week urging the governor to intercede on the town’s behalf, Ocean City officials pointed out advances in technology since the PSC first approved the two Wind Energy Areas off the resort coast had grown the size of the proposed turbines exponentially. From the beginning, the town’s position has been it supports clean, renewable energy, but has continually opposed siting the turbines any closer than 26 miles, or the distance perceived to have them not visible from the resort’s shoreline. However, with the improved technology and larger turbines, resort officials are now pushing for a distance no closer than 33 miles.
“Now, we understand that the developers are proposing to install 12 megawatt towers approaching 500 feet in height,” the town’s letter to Hogan reads. “In order for a structure that large to be invisible from Ocean City, they would need to be located at least 33 miles from our coast. The visual impact and the associated negative affect on tourism, property values and the environment of these giant structures, now more than twice the height of the tallest high-rise in Ocean City and allowed within 10 miles of our shore cannot be understated.”
GE Renewable Energy President and CEO Jerome Pecresse acknowledged its Haliade-X 12-megawatt turbine is the largest in the world, in a statement included in the release from Orsted this week.
“We are truly excited to be selected preferred supplier with the most powerful offshore wind turbine on the market by the global market leader,” he said. “Offshore wind is a high-growth segment for our company, and like Orsted, we are enthusiastic about the potential of offshore wind, both in the U.S. and globally.
Orsted Offshore President and CEO Martin Neubert agreed with that assessment.
“We look forward to introducing the next generation offshore wind turbine to the market,” he said. “For decades, Orsted has pioneered the introduction of new technology and new suppliers which has been fundamental to drive down the cost of electricity, and today offshore wind is a competitive source of homegrown clean energy that can help countries and states achieve their climate targets while creating long-lasting economic activity. We are delighted to see GE’s long-term commitment to offshore wind and to partner with them on our Mid-Atlantic cluster.”
Clint Plummer, head of market strategies and new projects at Orsted North America acknowledged the proposed GE turbines were considerably larger than what was first presented three years ago, but that the technology has changed and that was always part of the equation.
“When the Skipjack Wind Farm was first proposed to the Maryland Public Service Commission in November 2016, we based its design on the most advanced wind turbine technology at the time, but we were also clear that turbine technology was changing rapidly and that our final equipment selection would come in the future as the project matured,” he said. “Now, new wind turbine technology is available. The GE Haliade-X 12-megawatt turbines Orsted recently selected for the Skipjack wind farm, which stands at approximately 853 feet, is the most efficient turbine commercially available.”
Plummer said while the larger turbines have been selected, the core elements of the project remain unchanged. For example, it will consist of no more than 15 turbines and possibly fewer. The closest wind turbine would be 19.5-miles from the Maryland coast and 26 miles from the Ocean City pier.
In addition, Plummer said the Skipjack project will deliver nearly 1,400 jobs in Maryland and over $200 million in local investment. Plummer said Orsted will establish a permanent operations and maintenance facility and associated jobs in the Ocean City area. He also said there will be ample time for public comment through the permitting process.
“Now, we are about to begin a multi-year permitting review in which a number of state and federal agencies will consider all environmental and stakeholder issues, including the project’s visibility from shore,” he said. “We encourage any interested parties to participate in those processes.”