Following a request for public comment on proposed changes to the size of future wind farm turbines, the Maryland Public Service Commission has granted a request for a hearing to consider the impacts of the changes. However, the commission denied a request to reopen the case or reconsider the granting of offshore wind renewable energy certificates.
In a Dec. 13 order, Maryland Public Service Commission Executive Secretary Andrew Johnston said, was granting a request from Ocean City, Md. officials to have a hearing on the impact larger turbines would have on the viewshed. He said the issue of viewshed was a significant focus during the approval process for U.S. Wind and Skipjack LLC, the two companies awarded Maryland’s offshore wind renewable energy certificates in 2017.
In October, the commission issued a notice asking for comment regarding Skipjack and U.S. Wind announcing changes in the size of turbines they anticipate will be used.
The commission said Skipjack now plans to use General Electric’s Haliade-X, a 12-megawatt turbine that has a height of over 850 feet when a blade is straight up in the air.
The commission said U.S. Wind is also considering a different turbine than was approved because the ones approved in 2016 are no longer commercially available. According to the commission, U.S. Wind has not made a final decision on the new size but is currently evaluating 8-, 10- and 12-megawatt units.
The commission finds that the changes announced by both U.S. Wind and Skipjack are such that, it is appropriate to inquire into the changes to consider the impact, said Johnson. Discovery at the future hearing will be limited to this topic, he said.
The commission has set the hearing for noon, Saturday, Jan. 18, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. According to the order, a specific location has not yet been secured.
In an email Dec. 18, Joy Weber, Ørsted's development manager for the Skipjack Wind Farm, said Ørsted is pleased the commission has rejected requests to reopen its proceedings related to the Skipjack Wind Farm.
“Ørsted stands ready to participate in the PSC’s limited inquiry on its plan to use the best commercially available turbine technology for Skipjack, a project that will bring millions of dollars in economic impact to Maryland and Delaware and result in the creation of thousands of local jobs,” said Weber.
In an email Dec. 18, David Stevenson, director Caesar Rodney Institute Center for Energy Competitiveness, said reopening the docket is a critical step in meeting the concerns of Maryland electric customers who may be seriously overpaying for the proposed offshore wind projects. Larger turbines reduce project costs significantly by allowing fewer turbines to be built with each turbine having higher operating efficiencies, he said.
Stevenson said the hearing will also allow the commission to consider concerns of beach communities regarding the impact on tourism which were ignored in the initial approval process. He said the commision requires benefits of the projects exceed costs.
“Just a 1 percent loss in tourism wipes out the $1 billion in direct Maryland economic benefits expected from the two proposed offshore wind projects,” said Stevenson. “In the case of Delaware beach communities, the only expected benefit is the $18 million Ørsted would pay for state park improvements in exchange for building electric transmission infrastructure in Fenwick Island State Park. The $18 million would be wiped out by a loss of 0.04 percent of the tourism business.”
DNREC still accepting public comment on Fenwick Island proposal
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is taking public comment through Wednesday, Jan. 15, on Ørsted’s proposal to connect its wind power to the grid through a transmission connection in Fenwick Island State Park.
Ørsted has proposed roughly $18 million in improvements to the state park, including a two-story parking structure, a Route 1 pedestrian crossover connecting the bay and the ocean areas, an outdoor amphitheater, housing for lifeguards, a new park bathhouse, a new building for the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce and an overall improvement in roadway infrastructure. According to drawings prepared by Ørsted, the connection facility would be taller than the tree line and approximately one acre in size.
For questions or to complete a survey on the project, go to destateparks.com/FenwickImprovements.