OCEAN CITY – Federal officials this week announced acceptance of US Wind’s first proposed offshore wind farm projects off the coast of Ocean City and will begin an environmental review of the project with the requisite public hearings scheduled for later this year.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced on Monday it has accepted the construction and operations plan (COP) for US Wind’s Marwin project, in line to be the first offshore wind project off Maryland’s Atlantic coast. In 2017, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) approved offshore renewable energy credits, or ORECs, for two proposed offshore wind farm projects off the coast of Ocean City, including US Wind’s Marwin project.
Since then, the projects have been going through an extensive federal review and approval process. Another milestone in that process was reached this week when BOEM announced it has formally accepted US Wind’s COP for the Marwin project and has published a notice of intent (NOI) to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project submitted for approval by US Wind.
The publication of the NOI sets in motion a 30-day public comment period through July 8 as part of the process to help BOEM determine the scope of its environmental review of the project. During the public comment period, BOEM will host three virtual scoping meetings to inform the public of the preparation of the EIS. Those hearings are scheduled for Tuesday, June 21, at 5 p.m.; Thursday, June 23, at 5 p.m.; and Monday, June 27, at 1 p.m.
BOEM’s formal acceptance of US Wind’s COP for its Marwin project is a critical next step in the process. The lease area off the coast of the resort is roughly 10 nautical miles from Ocean City and nine nautical miles from Delaware’s Atlantic shoreline. If approved, the development and construction phases of the US Wind project could support nearly 2,700 jobs annually over the next seven years. US Wind’s Marwin project is just one of four currently going through the approval process.
US Wind has also proposed a second-phase Momentum Wind project off the coast of the resort and has received approval from the PSC for the ORECs need to bring the project to fruition. The Marwin project includes 22 turbines sited about 17 miles off the coast of the resort. The larger Momentum Wind project would include 82 significantly larger and taller turbines in the designated Wind Energy Area (WEA) off the coast of Ocean City.
With the announcement of the formal approval of US Wind’s Marwin project application this week, BOEM officials praised the project as a jumpstart to what the agency hopes will be a robust alternative and sustainable energy program off the nation’s Atlantic coast.
“If approved, this project will represent another step forward to creating a robust offshore wind industry here in the United States, all while creating good-paying, family-supporting jobs,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “We are committed to using the best available science and traditional knowledge to inform our decisions and protect the ocean environment and marine life. We look forward to receiving input from our government partners, ocean users and other stakeholders, which is critical to a successful environmental review process.”
From the outset of what has now become a years-long process, local officials have repeatedly said they support offshore wind, but wanted the turbines sited at a distance far enough offshore that they are not visible from the shoreline. Local elected officials testified during the PSC public hearing last year they remained adamant about siting the first line of turbines for both projects at least 30 miles from the shoreline.
The town is more than concerned that the Marwin project’s turbines will be sited around 17 miles off the resort’s coast, which they believe will have a detrimental impact on Ocean City’s viewshed and potentially tourism and property values. Throughout the process, the offshore wind energy companies developing projects off the resort coast have consistently ramped up the size of the proposed offshore wind turbines as technological advances have outpaced the government approval process for the proposed projects.
City Manager Terry McGean at the close of Monday’s Mayor and Council meeting referenced BOEM’s acceptance of US Wind’s first project and urged elected officials, staff and citizens to participate in the pending virtual public hearings.
“BOEM has formally accepted the construction and operations plan for the US Wind project off our coast,” he said. “They notified us today they have scheduled three virtual public hearings. I encourage everyone to register to attend those public hearings.”
Mayor Rick Meehan called into question the relatively short turnaround time between BOEM’s acceptance of US Wind’s COP and the scheduled virtual scoping hearings.
“You know, BOEM has had that plan for over a year now,” he said. “They decided to schedule public hearings and really give us less than 20 days-notice, which is kind of unbelievable to me. So, they get to review it for a year and schedule a public hearing, giving us less than 20 days to prepare for 450-plus pages.”