Offshore wind took a step forward as a public meeting about a meteorological tower to be constructed off of Ocean City drew little opposition.
The Ocean City Town Council voiced its concern, and US Wind wasted no time to keep conversation open about offshore wind farms.
The US Wind project, a proposed 248-megawatt wind farm located 12 to 14 miles off the coast of Ocean City in an 80,000-acre plot of ocean, received scrutiny from the council during a meeting on April 3. Specifically, council members feared a negative impact on tourism as a result of "visual pollution" from the turbines standing on the horizon.
At the April 3 council meeting, council member Dennis Dare suggested 20 miles as being a much more reasonable distance.
US Wind reached out to the town offering to move the wind farm another five miles out, if need be.
While council member and secretary Mary Knight expressed optimism in US Wind's willingness to compromise, her concerns still remained that the projects could have a negative impact on Ocean City.
"I really don't know what my opinion is until I see their new proposal," Knight said.
Noting the concerns of the council, the dialogue beginning now is crucial for the future of the project, said Paul Rich, US Wind's director of project development.
"I don't see this as necessarily a bad thing," Rich said. "It's the start of a long, important conversation that needs to be had with the town. We want to be a good corporate partner, and help meet their concerns the best we can."
The move to push the wind farms five miles further out would ultimately decrease visibility by about 35 percent, according to a release from US Wind. This could prove to be a substantial number, considering turbines on a clear day in their previous position being about the size of a thumbnail at arm's length from the coastline, according to Rich.
This move would not come without a cost to US Wind, however. At approximately $1 million per mile for transmission lines, which will be fed into the Indian River Substation, the move would tack on an extra $5 million to the $1.3 billion construction project. Including all infrastructure, leasing and other expenses, the project marks a total of $4 billion in capital investment.
Even with the move, Knight remained steadfast in her concerns about the project.
"I can't tell you how many emails I've received since these renderings came out," Knight said. "None of them have been people living in Ocean City saying 'Yeah, bring them here.' They've all been people that are concerned, and it's my responsibility to voice their concerns."
It is worth noting that at a public meeting in Berlin on March 25 a majority of the crowd that attended the meeting voiced support for the wind farms.
Moving forward, Rich said he's eager to work with the town to find a solution that benefits both parties.
"As I've said before, with any change comes anxiety, and education is key here," Rich said. "I hope that the council members will take into account other projects in Europe, and on Block Island (Rhode Island) and realize these aren't necessarily a bad thing."
US Wind is one of two developers biding for wind farms off the coast, the second being Deepwater Wind's Skipjack project — a 120 megawatt project to be located 17 nautical miles off the coast. Deepwater, based in Providence, Rhode Island, is responsible for the first offshore wind project in the United States, on which Rich functioned as project manager.
Both the Deepwater and US Wind projects are under review by the Maryland Public Service Commission, which will make its decision by May 17.
For Knight, her demands, and that of the council are simple.
"I've expressed again and again that I am all for sustainable energy and understand how important it is for us to move to more renewable technology," Knight said. "But as I said at the council meeting, we really just don't want to see it."