Local residents gather to discuss Ocean City windfarm

The Maryland Public Service Commission heard arguments from both sides Saturday afternoon at Stephen Decatur Middle School concerning a project to build a Wind Farm 10 nautical miles off of Ocean City's coastline.

Advocates for the project said that Maryland could take the lead in wind energy in the region, an industry they argue is a big part of the future.

Greg Farley, Director of the Center of Leadership and Environmental Education at Chesapeake College, says the impact of doing nothing means we continue to make the climate change problem worse.

"If we do this the right way, I think we'll end up creating careers.  Not just jobs, not just jobs that are going to be here, then go.  I think this is the possibility to build an offshore wind hub here means that we probably have the capacity to build careers in all phases of the renewable wind energy process."

Farley went on to say the project could enhance the strength of manufacturing in Maryland, and can help curb health problems caused by climate change.

As of now, Ocean City's 80,000 square acre Wind Energy Area is divided into two leasing areas.  Deepwater Wind, a Rhode Island based company, controls the northern lease area.  A Baltimore-based company, U.S. Wind, controls the southern lease area.  Deepwater has the distinction of successfully developing the only operating wind farm in the U.S.

Don Murphy , a former member of the House of Delegates, says it may not be a smart idea for Maryland to dive in to a wind farm project just yet.  He says Maryland should wait to see how the wind project in Rhode Island fairs before investing in one of its own.

Another factor concerning Murphy is the site line on the beaches of the resort town.

"There's an $8 billion tax base in Ocean City alone.  If that's impacted even in the smallest way, that'll be millions of taxes not gained here.  That will be potentially jobs that are not brought here, and people will go elsewhere.  Maybe looking at these windmills is cool for hour, but you don't want to be sitting there on a beach all day or all week looking at them."

The two companies in question have stark differences in their plans.  U.S. Wind is taking a bigger is better approach.  Their plan includes 187 wind turbines at a cost of about $1 Billion to be completed by 2022.  The turbines would generate an estimated 750 megawatts of energy and cost state rate payers an estimated $1.49 per billing period.

Deepwater is taking a more conservative approach, proposing just 135 turbines producing 250 megawatts of power and costing rate payers $0.34 per billing period.

The commission has until May 17 to approve, conditionally approve, or deny the proposed project.

The next hearing will be held this Thursday in Annapolis.

Categories: Local News, Maryland