OCEAN CITY — With significantly more offshore wind turbines planning offshore, the Ocean City Mayor and Council received a rather dire call to action from the city engineer and voted to renew the contract of the town’s government relations consultant.
The last item on Tuesday’s work session agenda was a proposed contract renewal for government relations consultant Bruce Bereano, whose lobbying efforts have assisted the town through many initiatives, including getting special event zone legislation approved and in working through the effort to push proposed offshore wind turbines further offshore and out of the resort’s viewshed.
Bereano’s contract extension request comes at a time when the town is closely monitoring potentially substantial increases in the number of turbines off the resort coast in second-phase projects for the two companies already approved. In 2017, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) approved two wind energy projects off the coast of Ocean City, including Ørsted’s Skipjack I project and US Wind’s Marwin project.
Technically, the PSC awarded Offshore Renewable Energy Credits, or ORECs, to the two bid award winners. Those projects are now going through the federal review period with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). Buoyed by federal and state calls for an expansion of offshore wind energy, both Ørsted and US Wind have submitted requests for ORECs from the PSC for their second-phase projects, which, if approved, would significantly increase the number of wind turbines sited off the resort coast.
BOEM designated a Wind Energy Area (WEA) off the coast of Ocean City of about 80,000 acres. Both of the second-phase projects would be sited in that WEA. Orsted’s Skipjack I project would generate 120-megawatts. The proposed Skipjack II would generate 760-megawatts, or would about six times the size of the initial project.
The number of turbines for Skipjack 2 will be dependent on an award from the PSC and the size of the award, according to Orsted officials, who also said Skipjack 2, if approved, would be sited about 20 miles off the coast of the resort. Skipjack 1 is proposed to be sited about 19.5 miles off the coast, by comparison.
Similarly, US Wind’s Marwin project would include 22 turbines. It’s proposed Momentum Wind project, of which the company has applied to the PSC for more ORECs, would include 82 turbines. The company’s already-approved MarWin project includes 22 turbines sited about 17 miles off the coast of the resort.
Throughout the lengthy approval process for the projects, Ocean City has consistently said it supports offshore wind, but wants the turbines sited far enough off the coast that they aren’t visible from the shoreline. The concern is massive turbines visible from the shoreline could impact tourism and the local economy.
With Orsted and US Wind submitting applications for more and larger offshore wind projects, City Engineer Terry McGean late Tuesday warned resort officials about the potential fast-track projects. McGean’s comments came during the discussion of Bereano’s contract extension.
“We are getting ready to go through a very critical process at the state level,” he said. “The Public Service Commission is ready to award significantly more ORECs. With the last round of ORECs, we were talking about 20 to 30 turbines. This time, we’re talking about over 100 turbines.”
McGean said the PSC has scheduled a virtual public hearing on the proposed OREC application for September 28. He told the Mayor and Council the deadline to sign up to speak at the virtual hearing is Sept. 24 and urged the town’s elected officials to be part of the discussion.
“It’s a very rapid process,” he said. “The next six months are going to be critical for us in terms of what happens at the state level.”
McGean endorsed renewing Bereano’s contract with the PSC public hearing and other actions at the state level on offshore wind looming.
“The Public Service Commission is where Mr. Bereano has his greatest contacts,” he said. “That’s where he has been the biggest assistance to us.”
For his part, City Manager Doug Miller outlined Bereano’s service to the town, particularly on offshore wind issues.
“We hired Mr. Berreano in 2017, primarily to get assistance in getting the wind farms moved farther offshore,” he said. “Since that time, he has done other work for us.”
Miller said Bereano was requesting a one-year extension at $65,000, paid quarterly and recommended renewing the contract.
“It is my request that we continue our relationship with Mr. Bereano. “He has not changed his fee at all. If we get to a point we’re successful and we don’t need his services, we can terminate the contract at the end of that quarter.”
The council voted 6-0 with Councilman John Gehrig absent to approve the contract renewal.