In a sign that offshore wind power production is moving closer to receiving approval in Maryland, the federal government announced this week that it will hold three public meetings later this month on one of two proposed wind turbine projects as part of an upcoming environmental review.
This week, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will release a so-called Letter of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the construction and operations plan submitted by US Wind, LLC.
The release of the notice opens a 30-day public comment period through July 8 as part of the process to help BOEM determine the scope of its environmental assessment. During the comment period, the agency, which has the final say on offshore wind projects in federal waters, will hold three virtual public meetings on June 21 at 5 p.m., June 23 at 5 p.m. and June 27 on the proposed project and permitting process hold at 1 p.m
Registration for the virtual public sessions and detailed information about the proposed wind turbine, including the opportunity to comment, can be found on BOEM’s website.
“If approved, this project will represent another step forward in creating a robust offshore wind industry here in the United States while also creating high-paying, family-supporting jobs,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “We are committed to using the best available science and traditional knowledge to make our decisions and protect the marine environment and marine life. We look forward to input from our government partners, ocean users and other stakeholders critical to a successful environmental assessment process.”
US Wind holds lease rights to an area 12 to 27 miles offshore from Ocean City. According to BOEM, US Wind is considering proposing to build and operate an offshore wind project with a total capacity of 1,100 to 2,000 megawatts of renewable wind energy on the Delmarva Peninsula that could power up to 650,000 homes in Maryland. Delaware and Virginia each year.
The project would include the installation of up to 121 turbines, up to four offshore substation platforms, a weather tower and up to four offshore export cable corridors to be connected to a substation at either 3 R’s Beach or Tower Road in the Delaware Seashore State Park in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Taking to social media, US Wind called the federal government’s announcement of an environmental review “a significant milestone.”
“We are excited about this exciting new phase in the development of offshore wind projects that work for everyone,” the company said.
In the first phase of the lengthy permitting process, US Wind received offshore renewable energy credits (ORECs) from the Maryland Public Service Commission in 2017 for the first 270-megawatt phase of its lease. Company executives hope to bring this phase, dubbed MarWin, online in 2024. Last December, the PSC awarded ORECs for the second phase of US Wind’s proposal, the 808-megawatt Momentum Wind project, which is expected to be operational before the end of 2026.
Offshore wind energy proposals continue to stir controversy in Ocean City, where some elected officials and business leaders fear the sight of wind turbines miles offshore will be an eyesore and hurt tourism and the real estate market.
But after years of stagnation, U.S. offshore wind projects in general are gaining momentum and have become a priority for the Biden administration. And most Maryland officials are increasingly optimistic about their ability to create construction and operational jobs, both on the East Coast and at Baltimore County’s Tradepoint Atlantic industrial development, where turbines are expected to be manufactured and assembled.
If approved, the development and construction phases of the US wind project could create up to 2,679 jobs annually over seven years, the federal government estimated. The Biden administration aims to provide 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power capacity by 2030 and create about 80,000 jobs in the industry nationwide.
This is the 10th offshore wind turbine construction and operations review initiated by the Department of the Interior since President Biden took office.
Small pilot offshore wind projects are already operational off the coasts of Rhode Island and Virginia, and larger projects are under construction off Cape Cod in Massachusetts and off the coast of New Jersey. Construction has just begun on another project off the coast of Long Island in New York.
Meanwhile, an international offshore wind company, Ørsted, has also secured leases from Maryland to build and operate offshore wind farms off the coast of Ocean City, and the company hopes the state permitting process for those projects will begin soon. Ørsted’s proposals, known as Skipjack 1 and Skipjack 2, would be slightly further offshore than US wind developments.
The two companies’ projects ran roughly on the same timelines. Like the US wind projects, Skipjack 1 received approval from the Maryland PSC in 2017 and Skipjack 2 was approved last December.
“Ørsted looks forward to building, owning and operating Skipjack Wind for decades to come, while creating thousands of local offshore jobs and providing clean, domestic energy to nearly 300,000 homes in the region,” Brady Walker, Mid -Atlantic Market Manager of Ørsted said in a statement provided to Maryland Matters on Tuesday.
“The development of Skipjack Wind is in full swing,” said Walker. “In May, Ørsted completed offshore geotechnical and geophysical surveys to provide a comprehensive picture of the seabed and allow for further development of Skipjack Wind’s proposed offshore cable routes and potential landfall sites. Ørsted continues to have a productive dialogue with BOEM on the project permitting timeline and plans to submit the Skipjack Wind construction and operations plan to BOEM this year.”