Congressional Amendment May Imperil Maryland Offshore Wind Project

A proposal that was approved by a U.S. House committee calls for Maryland’s two offshore wind projects to inch farther away from the coast, a move one of the developers said would jeopardize the entire effort.

The Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a measure, sponsored by Rep. Andy Harris, the Republican whose district includes the Eastern Shore, that requires the towering turbines to be located at least 24 miles from shore.

According to Delmarvanow,

The legislation comes after Ocean City officials protested that views of the turbines from its beaches and coastal condominiums would spoil the resort’s tourism industry.

“This will make it so when you go to Ocean City, Maryland, you don’t have red blinking lights on the horizon,” Harris told the committee. He cited a North Carolina State University survey in which 54 percent of respondents said they would be unwilling to stay wherever turbines are visible.

The Harris amendment bars federal funding from being spent on government reviews of wind projects built within 24 miles of Maryland’s shoreline. Any construction that takes place farther out to sea would be unaffected.

Harris said the measure would delay, not kill, the projects. The congressman pointed to a project off Virginia Beach that is going up 27 miles off the coast.

But one of the developers in Maryland promptly disagreed with that assessment.

Since its lease area is shaped like a triangle, U.S. Wind Inc. would be left with only enough room for one turbine, said Paul Rich, the company’s director for project development, in an interview.

“This is not helpful,” Rich said. “This stops a process before it’s even begun. It’s totally at odds with his constituency.”

U.S. Wind, Inc. has received enough renewable energy credits to build 62 turbines, which would rise 17 miles offshore. The company, a subsidiary of the Italian constructing firm Toto Holdings SpA, had moved the site back from 12 miles in response to Ocean City’s concerns.

Meanwhile, Skipjack Offshore Energy LLC is looking to construct 15 turbines in an area 17-21 miles off the coast at a cost of $720 million.

A representative of the Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind Holdings LLC firm couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

The amendment drew a rebuke from unlikely allies: manufacturing businesses and environmentalists.

Together, the projects are expected to generate more than $1.8 billion of in-state spending as well as 9,700 new direct and indirect jobs, the Maryland Public Service Commission estimates. The amendment imperils that potential economic boost, said Mike Dunn, president and CEO of the Greater Salisbury Committee.

“We think there are enormous economic development and job opportunities for the Lower Shore via the offshore wind,” Dunn said.

For her part, Anne Havemann, general counsel for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said she was “very frustrated” by the amendment. The legislation “tries to circumvent” six years of public hearings and government reviews that have gone into the effort, she said.

Individually, the projects are larger than the only offshore U.S. wind farm currently in operation: a five-turbine facility off Rhode Island, also developed by Deepwater.

U.S. Wind plans to construct future phases at the Maryland offshore site, raising the number of turbines to up to 187. That would produce enough power for more than 500,000 homes, the company said.

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