OCEAN CITY — One of the two companies planning an offshore wind farm project already in the planning pipeline on Wednesday applied for a second project roughly six times larger.
In 2017, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) approved two wind energy projects off the coast of Ocean City, including Ørsted’s Skipjack project. Technically, the PSC awarded Offshore Renewable Energy Credits, or ORECs, to the two successful bidders, including the Skipjack project. The Skipjack project is now making its way through the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) approval process.
On Wednesday, Ørsted announced it has submitted a bid to the PSC to develop Skipjack 2, a proposed project off the coast of Ocean City. The proposed Skipjack Wind 2 project would include up to 760 megawatts and would be sited about 20 miles off the coast of the resort. It would be located in the same approved Wind Energy Area (WEA) as the Skipjack 1 project.
BOEM designated a WEA off the coast of the resort of about 80,000 acres, and the Skipjack 1 project is situated in the northern section of Maryland’s WEA. By comparison, Skipjack 1 is slated for about 120 megawatts. At a proposed 760 megawatts, Skipjack Wind 2 would be over six times the size of Skipjack 1.
The number of turbines for Skipjack 2 will be dependent on an award from the PSC and the size of the award, according to Ørsted officials, who also said Skipjack 2, if approved, would be sited further east than Skipjack 1, which is proposed about 19.5 miles off the coast, by comparison.
Ørsted’s Skipjack 1 project was one of two approved during the PSC’s first round of awards in 2017. The company’s bid submittal for Skipjack 2 this week is part of the PSC’s planned second round of approvals. The second solicitation is being spurred by President Joe Biden’s newest stated goal of deploying 30 gigawatts, or 30,000 megawatts, of offshore wind energy off the east coast by 2030.
Ørsted Offshore North America CEO David Hardy said this week the company is proud to be part of the ambitious goal of expanding offshore wind energy off the mid-Atlantic coast.
“Ørsted is privileged to already be a long-term partner with the state of Maryland as it works to meet its offshore wind goals,” he said. “We are proud to build, own and operate wind farms across the world and will bring that same approach to Maryland. As such, these at least 30-year commitments we are making to the state are designed to provide long-term benefits to all of the communities that will be home to our facilities. In continuing to deliver on our commitments now, and well into the future, we will ensure that Maryland’s offshore win industry will thrive for decades to come.”
While details on the proposed Skipjack 2 project are scant, the presumption is the company will likely go with the GE Haliade-X 12-megawatt turbines approved for Skipjack 1. When the PSC first approved the ORECs for Ørsted and US Wind in 2017, language in the approval allowed for the best technologically available turbines.
At the time, the Skipjack 1 project called for 8-megawatt turbines. Ørsted has since gained permission to go with the 12-megawatt turbines, deemed the largest commercially-available wind turbines in the world. While the 12-megawatt turbines are considerably taller than what was first approved, going with the larger turbines will allow the company to reduce the overall number of turbines while meeting its megawatt production goal for the 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. With Ørsted’s bid this week to the PSC for a second Skipjack 2 project, those objections will likely intensify. In its decision to approve the 12-megawatt turbines for the Skipjack 1 project last August, the PSC acknowledged Ocean City’s concern about the distance from the coast.
“The gravamen of Ocean City’s objection to the project, whether the eight-megawatt or 12-megawatt turbine is used, is that the turbines will be visible from the shore and may negatively impact tourism,” the order reads. “The commission takes Ocean City’s concerns seriously. Ocean City is an iconic coastal town that attracts over eight million tourists per year and there is no dispute that the 12-megawatt turbine is larger than the eight-megawatt turbine it replaces. Nevertheless, there are a number of viewshed benefits of using the larger turbine that lower the visual impact from the shore.”
Ørsted’s bid this week for Skipjack 2 is in response to the PSC’s call for proposals for round two, through which at least 1,200 megawatts of ORECs can be awarded by the commission. Ørsted estimates the second project could provide power for over 250,000 homes.