Maryland board OKs taller wind turbines off Ocean City

The Maryland Public Service Commission on Thursday approved a power company’s request to build wind turbines off Ocean City that are more than 200 feet taller than had originally been permitted.

The decision came after Ocean City officials, including Mayor Rick Meehan, had testified that the new, larger turbine design chosen by Skipjack Offshore Energy for the wind projects would ruin views of the horizon from the beach, thus affecting the town’s crucial tourism industry.

They added that the new turbines, three times taller than the tallest building in Ocean City, would require aerial hazard navigation lights, which the previous turbines did not, and contended that values of beachfront properties would be adversely affected.

Town officials wanted the commission to order Skipjack to move the turbines 33 miles offshore, citing a wind farm development off Long Island, New York, that is that far out, and thus out of sight.

Skipjack argued that the taller turbines will actually help the view, because they are more efficient and thus will allow them to build fewer than originally planned, and place them farther out into the water — between 21.5 and 22.7 miles out, as opposed to the original 19.5.

They also said that the argument they should build so far out as to be invisible from shore would require them to completely change the approved parameters they’ve been working from since 2017, and would fall outside the area they’ve been given to work with.

The commission sided with Skipjack, adding that the agreement with the energy company never specified a particular turbine. The plan originally submitted with the application in 2016 used the most technologically advanced turbine at the time, the commission said in their decision, and since then, the state-of-the-art model has changed.

The new turbines will be 492 feet tall at the hub, up from the 374 feet of the previously approved turbine; the diameter of the rotor will be 721 feet, up from 590, and the tip height will grow to 853 feet, up from 641.

The commission said the new turbines meant that 12 or fewer turbines would be built, down from the previous 15.

Meehan also argued that, while the company told the commission about the new turbines in June 2019, Ocean City officials hadn’t heard from Skipjack for nearly six months before the new turbine design was unveiled at a public hearing in January.

The commission ordered Skipjack to stay in better contact with the town about its plans.

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