Everyone is into the renewable energy surge, particularly in the blue states, right? It’s all the rage these days… except when it’s not. That seems to be the case in Maryland, particularly down in the beach communities like Ocean City. A major wind farm project expected to begin construction next year and be in operation by 2023 is to be located approximately 20 miles off the coast. But now, residents have learned that the wind turbines will wind up being 200 feet taller than originally proposed.
This has gotten the locals up in arms. There were plenty of objections to the wind turbines originally, with voters and local officials fearing that they would spoil the view for locals and drive tourists away. But a deal was finally reached in 2017 and the project began to move forward. This new announcement of taller towers has reopened the debate, however. (Baltimore Sun)
The Maryland Public Service Commission is seeking new input on the potential impact of the windmills, roughly 20 miles from shore but several hundred feet higher than Baltimore’s tallest buildings. Potential impacts could include harm to birds or commercial fishing, though the strongest opposition has focused on an expectation that wind farms visible from shore would send tourists fleeing to beaches with pristine views in other states…
Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said he hopes commissioners step in to force the developers to move the projects farther from shore, lest the view from beaches look “like Star Wars.”
“It will change the horizon off the town of Ocean City forever,” Meehan said.
Officials from the governor on down have proposed the idea of taking a fresh look at the agreement. But even if there is a further review, it’s unclear what, if anything, the state government can do about it. The state regulatory commission already signed a deal with the energy company charged with building the wind farm. They promised them lavish tax subsidies and also signed off on the company’s ability to “use the best technology available” while noting that advances in such technology could mean that “turbine design would change over time.”
And it’s not as if they have a lot of choice in the matter anyway. In their eagerness to prove their commitment to renewable energy and the fight against fossil fuels, in 2013 Maryland joined many other states in passing a law mandating an increase in the percentage of renewable energy they used. They bumped that up again this year, demanding that half of their energy come from renewable sources in ten years.
Maryland is a very small state without a ton of open land. It’s also in the northeast, meaning that they don’t get all that many sunny days, particularly in the fall and winter. It’s also not located on any geothermal hotspots. So wind is pretty much the major way they’re going to be able to produce a lot of juice. And unfortunately for them, most of the available, steady wind is going to be found offshore.
If you want to demand that all of your energy be “clean” and build that into the state’s laws, you’re going to need to put up with a lot of windmills. Just ask the people in Vermont how that’s worked out. But look on the bright side. Once those turbine blades start slicing up thousands of birds every year, the fish will be feeding like crazy. Maybe you can take out some charter boats so tourists can catch them or something.