Expectations for any significant changes to the proposed wind farms offshore should not be elevated based on the Maryland Public Service Commission’s order for a public hearing on the wind turbines’ changes in height. In fact, the commission made that clear in its order.
“This inquiry is limited to potential impacts related to a change in turbine size,” the order reads. “The commission will not consider issues extraneous to that topic, including whether to grant the ORECs (Offshore Renewable Energy Credits). The commission does not find it necessary or appropriate to reopen case number 9431 or reconsider order number 88192. Accordingly, Ocean City’s request to reopen case number 9431 or reconsider order number 88192 is denied.”
The case numbers referred to are the specific ORECs granted to the two wind farm developers by the commission two years ago. The ORECs are the key financial piece required for the offshore wind farm. Without them, there would be no assurances the projects could be financially beneficial to the companies developing them.
Though Ocean City was rightly excited the request for a new public hearing was granted to further discuss the larger height of the turbines, we think the chances of any major changes occurring to the turbines are minimal. We expect the wind farm companies’ representatives to easily be able to refute any of the commission’s concerns with their assurances less turbines will need to be used with the larger, more efficient technology associated with the enlarged turbines.
Many of the same arguments about economic development, renewable energy and job creations will be used at the commission’s public hearing. These statements were successful in securing the pivotal ORECs two years ago. We suspect the outcome will be the same when the commission reviews the plans and the comments made at the public hearing, but we agree it was a wise course to have the companies present their case for why they feel expanding the size of their turbines is the proper direction. In turn, Ocean City officials and other opponents to the wind farms as currently planned will be given their chance to articulate their concerns directly to the state’s decision makers.