OCEAN CITY – Officials say they continue to monitor offshore wind projects off the coast of Ocean City.
On Monday, City Manager Terry McGean presented the Mayor and Council with a quarterly update on offshore wind activities near Ocean City. As the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) reviews public comments on US Wind’s offshore project, to be located off the coast of the resort, officials say the town would continue to advocate for a “no-build” alternative.
“I think it’s very clear the position of the Mayor and Council at this point is we’re in total opposition to the US Wind project,” said Mayor Rick Meehan. “It’s hard to believe almost seven years ago, Terry and I attended the first meeting of the Public Service Commission in the Berlin library. Seven years is a long time, and we tried to approach this many different ways to protect the Town of Ocean City, our future and our viewshed and our economy. And the door has been closed in our face at every single governmental level. So the town is unified in its stance, and we are in total opposition.”
In a presentation Monday, McGean offered several updates on various offshore wind projects taking place off the mid-Atlantic coastline. Regarding the US Wind project, McGean said city officials attended both in-person and virtual hearings this fall to voice the town’s opposition to the company’s construction of more than 100 wind turbines roughly nine miles from Ocean City.
“The in-person hearings, I think everyone would agree, were very disappointing,” he told the Mayor and Council. “They were really workshops and the only way the public could offer comments was by literally standing at a desk and talking to a court reporter.”
McGean noted that the town worked with its consultant, SLR International, to submit 279 comments to BOEM on US Wind’s draft Environmental Impact Statement. He said those comments were also shared with state and federal representatives.
“Comments addressed all aspects of the draft Environmental Impact Statement, from impacts to marine life, birds, navigation, fishing, our viewshed and our economy,” he said. “The mayor and myself also provided verbal comments to the open house court reporter and at the virtual meeting. Our comments opposed the project in its entirety and requested that BOEM adopt what’s known as a no-build alternative.”
McGean told the Mayor and Council the town now waits for BOEM to issue a final Environmental Impact Statement and record of decision on the US Wind project.
“BOEM has stated they expect to release the record of decision in the mid- to late-third quarter of 2024,” he explained. “Once the record of decision is issued, the city will determine if we wish to accept that decision or file suit against BOEM. We are preparing for either eventuality and will have more information on how we are preparing for that at a future work session.”
McGean said officials are also monitoring legislative actions to increase funding for projects lead by US Wind and Ørsted. He added that Ørsted has withdrawn its Construction and Operations Plan (COP) for the Skipjack Wind project, to be located off the coast of Delaware.
“They have yet to submit a new application,” he said. “Given BOEM review times, once one is submitted, I would expect six months before BOEM formally accepts it and releases it to the public, and then at least another two years after that for any approval.”
McGean said Ørsted has committed to sharing any new turbine sizes and visual simulations with the town once its plans for the Skipjack project are finalized. However, he said the town will oppose the company’s request to waive customer rebates.
“Under the Public Service Commission order that awarded the ORECs (Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Certificates) to Ørsted and US Wind, any additional federal tax benefits or subsidies for the respective projects, 80% of those were supposed to be rebated back to Maryland ratepayers,” he explained. “Ørsted has formally made a request to the Public Service Commission not to do that due to financial hardship. We will be opposing that request through our state’s attorney and the Public Service Commission.”
McGean said the town is also monitoring potential lease areas off the mid-Atlantic region. One lease area, identified as A-2, would be located off the Delaware coast, roughly 33 miles from Ocean City, while another area, identified as B-1, would be located off the coast of Assateague Island, roughly 25 miles from Ocean City.
“Lease area B-1, the Maryland area, has since been removed from further consideration, primarily due to objections from the Department of Defense,” he said. “I’d love to take credit for it, but really it was the Navy that had issues with that lease area. That is a positive development for us. That lease area would’ve been within our visual envelope.”
McGean noted, however, that the town would continue to submit comments for the proposed A-2 site of Delaware’s coast.
“Ocean City will still formally comment requesting the turbine sizes be restricted in all areas such that the top of the nacelle is not visible from Ocean City,” he said. “We learned a hard lesson last time. The Delaware lease area is 33 miles away, and you can’t see the turbines from there, provided they don’t get any bigger than they are now.”