General Assembly Passes Offshore Wind Legislation; Local Officials Share Concerns

General Assembly Passes Offshore Wind Legislation; Local Officials Share Concerns
Wind turbines are pictured offshore at a distance of 13 miles in an image distributed by the town. Rendering courtesy of Town of Ocean City

OCEAN CITY – Legislation passed in the General Assembly to expand offshore wind energy in Maryland is being met with both praise and frustration from local stakeholders.

On Monday, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Promoting Offshore Wind Energy Resources (POWER) Act, which will, among other things, increase the state’s offshore wind generation goals from roughly 2 gigawatts to 8.5 gigawatts by 2031, improve its transmission infrastructure, and provide a pathway to future procurement of offshore wind energy in the state.

Proponents of the bill – introduced by Del. Lorig Charkoudian in the House and Sen. Katie Fry Hester in the Senate – say the legislation will advance Maryland’s clean energy initiatives and put the state at the forefront of the offshore wind energy industry.

In separate statements this week, both Ørsted and US Wind, two companies developing offshore wind energy projects off the coast of Maryland, praised the bill’s passage.

“We applaud the Maryland General Assembly’s passage of the POWER Act and commend Governor Moore for his bold vision to make Maryland an offshore wind leader,” said Maddy Voytek, Ørsted’s deputy head of government affairs and market strategy in Maryland. “Ørsted is proud to be making significant commitments to develop supply chain, manufacturing, and operations capabilities across Maryland as we develop Skipjack Wind. We look forward to a strong and lasting partnership with the state as we help it achieve 8.5 gigawatts of offshore wind power and 100% clean energy by 2035.”

US Wind reports the 8.5 gigawatts of offshore wind energy targeted in the POWER Act would be enough to supply clean energy to more than 2 million homes in Maryland while creating thousands of jobs and opportunities for local unions and minority, women, service-disabled, and veteran-owned businesses.

“The POWER Act is a real game changer for Maryland,” said Jeff Grybowski, US Wind CEO. “It sets a path for the people of Maryland to reap the benefits of huge amounts of clean energy in the coming years. It also tells the entire offshore wind industry globally that Maryland is back big time as a major player. Companies looking to invest in offshore wind have to seriously consider Maryland.”

Opponents, however, say the legislation could potentially bring high-voltage power lines and cable landfalls to Ocean City.

Sen. Mary Beth Carozza said she voted against the POWER Act and offered an amendment in committee to prohibit cable and transmission infrastructure landfall in the Town of Ocean City. The amendment, however, was not approved.

She also highlighted her concerns about the cost of offshore wind energy and its impacts on marine life, commercial and recreational fishing, viewsheds and ratepayers, to name a few.

“As SB 781 is being pushed by members of the General Assembly, offshore wind developers in New Jersey are seeking more funding from ratepayers and several dead whales and dolphins have washed up on beaches along the East Coast,” she said in a weekly legislative update. “This should be a wake-up call for Maryland.”

Last week, the Eastern Shore Delegation also called for a congressional public hearing in Ocean City on the development of offshore wind energy projects off the coastline, similar to a hearing held in New Jersey last month.

Carozza said she and other members would continue to press to keep transmission infrastructure out of Ocean City and push for transparency as it relates to the cost of wind energy projects.

In Ocean City, officials continue to push for the relocation of wind turbines off the coast.

While he has supported the idea of offshore wind projects and the potential investments they could bring to the area, Mayor Rick Meehan said he was most concerned about the impacts wind turbines would have on the resort’s viewshed.

He shared his frustrations this week, stating that the town continues to be ignored.

“All of the goals that the State wishes to achieve with the passage of the POWER Act, and the construction of the wind turbines, will still be achieved if the turbines are located further to the east and out of the view shed of Ocean City. Nothing would change,” he said. “The clean energy goals, the investment by the wind companies in the Baltimore Harbor and throughout the state, all of the promised new jobs, all of this would still happen. Again nothing would change.”

He continued, “This is why it is so frustrating that the concerns expressed by Ocean City are just being totally ignored. I heard the term partners being used over and over again in Annapolis, yet it appears that the one State partner that is being left out of this discussion is Ocean City. We have one chance to get this right, Virginia got it right, North Carolina got it right, and now is the time for Maryland to get it right.” 

The bill has advanced to Gov. Wes Moore’s desk, where he is expected to sign the legislation into law.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.