OCEAN CITY — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was among the signees of a letter this week from the governors of nine northeast coastal states to President Joe Biden in support of increased offshore wind energy development.
In March, Biden announced an ambitious plan to jumpstart offshore wind energy projects off the east coast, but it is uncertain what some of the bold actions proposed mean for a pair of projects already in the pipeline off the resort coast. Biden announced a stated goal of deploying 30 gigawatts, or 30,000 megawatts, of offshore wind energy off the east coast by 2030.
This week, Hogan and the governors of eight other east coast states sent a letter to Biden praising his offshore wind energy initiatives and offering a series of recommendations to allow the states to collaborate in the development of offshore wind energy. Along with Maryland, the letter was signed by the governors of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Virginia. Oddly, Delaware was conspicuously absent from the state coalition’s letter to the president.
“The expansion of the offshore wind industry creates an unprecedented opportunity for the United States to capture significant economic development activity and build equality in coastal communities, while improving air quality and increasing the options for energy diversity,” the letter reads. “The importance of the federal-state partnership in realizing this opportunity cannot be overstated, and we commend your administration for the significant steps it has taken in recent weeks to address the critical areas of port infrastructure, permitting, research and development, fisheries support, and natural resource restoration and mitigation.”
While there are already significant offshore wind energy projects in various stages of the planning pipeline, including two proposed off the coast of Ocean City, the governors’ letter urges the Biden administration to identify even more wind energy lease areas off the east coast.
“State offshore wind procurement targets are increasing, and there is a substantial deficit in identified regional wind energy areas,” the letter reads. “As demand for federal lease areas is driven almost entirely by state-mandated power purchase needs, we recommend that your administration establish a timeline for identifying, characterizing and auctioning new federal lease areas that can support the states’ offshore wind procurement timelines.”
The governors’ joint letter urges the Biden administration to provide leadership to work through issues such as conflicts with maritime uses, fisheries and shipping that will need to peacefully coexist with wind energy farms off the coast.
“To ensure a sustainable coexistence with our coastal uses and natural resources, we request additional federal consultation with the states and increased regional leadership on addressing environmental, fishing and maritime concerns during and after the construction of facilities,” the letter reads. “We seek to provide more certainty to developers across projects in addressing legitimate interests in marine resources and maritime industries that will share space with this new industry.”
While the letter praises the president for his ambitious plans to expand offshore wind energy off the east coast, it urges the administration to do it in an environmentally friendly way that keeps in mind the need to coexist with existing industries and ocean uses.
“To advance offshore wind energy development in an environmentally responsible way that ensures renewable energy coexists with natural resources, ocean users and communities, including fishermen and the tribes, we urge the federal government to provide leadership on regional natural resource impact assessment and mitigation frameworks for demonstrated negative impacts on marine resources, fisheries, and local cultures,” the letter reads.
Closer to home, two offshore wind energy projects — US Wind’s MarWin project and Ørsted’s Skipjack project — are already moving through the approval process, so it remains to be seen if the bold actions announced by the president will have any impact on those.
In 2017, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) approved two offshore wind energy projects off the coast of Ocean City. Technically, the PSC awarded Offshore Renewable Energy Credits, or ORECs, to the two successful bidders seeking to develop wind energy farms off the coast of the resort including the US Wind project and the Skipjack project.
From the beginning, Ocean City has not opposed, but rather supported, the development of clean renewable energy off the coast. The town’s problem from the beginning has been the proposed distance of the wind turbines from the coast of the resort and the potential impact on the offshore viewsheds. The issue has been debated at nearly every level and every step in the regulatory process.