The Facts About OC's Wind Turbines


The Wind Turbines

The turbines initially proposed for Ocean City were 3 megawatt units.  They were 200 feet tall from the water line to the hub with a 300 foot blade diameter.  The overall height from the waterline to the tip of the blade was therefore approxinately 350 feet.

Currently, the proposed turbines are 8 megawatt units.  They are 370 feet tall from the waterline to the hub with a 550 foot blade diameter.  The overall height of the turbine from the waterline to the tip of the blade is therefore approximately 650 feet.

How Many Turbines

The current proposed field (field as in wind farm) off the Maryland coast consists of 86 turbines constructed in 3 phases and extends the entire length of Ocean City, from the Inlet to the Delaware Line.  Phase 1 is located 14.8 nautical miles (17 statute miles) offshore, Phase 2 is 13.0 nautical miles (15 statute miles) offshore, and Phase 3 is 11.2 nautical miles (13 statute miles) offshore.

The current field off Delaware supported by Maryland subsidy (that's Maryland utility user's dollars) consists of 15 turbines.  The location starts just north of the Town of Fenwick and runs to the Indian River Bridge.  It is located approximately 19 miles from Ocean City, Maryland.  There are plans to construct 50 - 60 additional turbines in the northern portion of the Delaware lease area but these would not be subsidized by Maryland utility customers.

There are no limits to the number of turbines that can be constructed in a given lease area.  The quantity is more constrained by the spacing required between the turbines so that the turbulence caused by one turbine does not affect the adjacent turbines.  

The Permit Process

The actual permit process consists of three phases.  First is the lease phase and this has been completed for the Maryland and Delaware turbines.  US Wind holds the rights to the Maryland Lease and Deepwater Wind holds the rights to the Delaware Lease.  

Next is what is known as the site assessment plan (SAP) which essentially gives the applicant a permit to construct a data gathering device.  In the case of the Maryland leaseholder, they have obtained their SAP permit and will be constructing a 450 foot meteorological tower approximately 15 miles off the Ocean City Coast this summer. The Delaware leaseholder has not filed their SAP application yet.

The final permit is the Construction and Operations Plan (COP) this is the permit that actually permits the construction of the wind turbines and related infrastructure.  

All three of these permit processes are administered by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) which is part off the US Department of the Interior.

When do they protect what we all cherish?  The Ocean View from the shores of Ocean City, Maryland.

Where Does the Power Generated Go?

The Maryland Project will actually have their power cable come ashore in Delaware at the Indian River Power Plant.  Since the lease itself is in Federal waters, neither the Town of Ocean City nor the State of Maryland have any permit jurisdiction over that project.  

In neither case does the electricity "stay in Maryland". The connection is made to what is known as the PJM Grid which is the multistate interconnected system of high capacity transmission cables and generating stations that supply power to the regulated electric utilities in the Northeast. The regulated utilities (ie Allegheny, Constellation, PEPCO, Delmarva Power) then distribute the electricity from the power station to the individual customer. 

Essentially what the Maryland Legislature did was establish what is known as the OREC (Offshore Renewable Energy Credit) process, which forces the Maryland Regulated Utility Companies to enter into long term contracts to purchase a certain amount of power in the form of ORECs from offshore wind companies approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission at rates that are higher than conventional power generation. The increased cost of those purchase contracts is then passed on to the customers of the regulated utilities (ie you and me). 

Who Is Paying for the Wind Turbines?

Both projects are receiving subsidies from Maryland utility rate payers through what is known as the Offshore Renewable Energy Credit (OREC) process which was adopted by the Maryland General Assembly in 2013 and implemented/awarded by the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) in 2017.  This does give the Maryland PSC some regulatory teeth over both projects.

The Assateague Island Viewshed Buffer

During the initial investigations to determine the lease area the entire Maryland Atlantic Coast was under consideration.  The National Park Service (which is under the Department of Interior) as some point stated they wanted a 20 mile "wilderness view shed" buffer.  This pushed the lease area further north away from the Assateague National Seashore.  This buffer was honored by BOEM (which is part off the Department of Interior).


Virginia Beach and North Carolina Viewshed Buffers

An economic study performed by NC State University surveyed actual ocean front renters in the Outer Banks, not the random guy on the street. They found that 55% of those renters said they would not rent an ocean front property where wind turbines would be visible no matter what the discount.  This is likely why the lease areas off Virginia Beach and North Carolina are both over 30 statute miles offshore.  

Is It Possible for US Wind to Build the Turbines No Closer than 26 Miles Offshore?

Yes!  BOEM representatives stated during a meeting with the Eastern Shore Delegation that the process to obtain a new lease would take 1-2 years.  

US Wind's estimated revenue based on the number of ORECs they are allowed to sell annually (913,845) at their stated price to the Public Service Commission of $131.93 is approximately $120 million per year.  That's $328,767.12 per day.  It would take US Wind approximately 39 and half days to recoup the price of moving the turbines out of our view...  What are they waiting for?  

At What Point Did Ocean City Become Aware of the Height of the Turbines?

The first time Ocean City was made aware of the height of the turbines was at a PSC Public Hearing held in Berlin on March 25, 2017, when renderings were shown by US Wind that did not look anything like what Ocean City was promised.

What's the difference between a statute mile and nautical mile?

The conversion is 1.15 statute miles equals 1 nautical mile.

Will We See the Turbines from the Beach?

I was talking with an engineer friend of mine. The story came up about the person who thought that since she couldn't see Ocean City from a boat 17 miles offshore that one certainly would not see 650 foot wind turbines placed 17 miles from the shoreline. My fiend went home and did some engineering calculations...

Assuming a man standing 6 ft. tall, the man would see a 650 ft. structure all the way out to 34.2 miles. In other words, that 650 ft. wind turbine would have to be 34.2 miles offshore before it can't be seen over the horizon. This also assumes it being very clear with no haze. 

He states: At thirteen miles, you'll be able to see the wind turbines and their warning lights. At 26 miles, I believe the tips of the blade will blend in with the waves. 

Blending into the waves is good, seeing wind turbines and red blinking lights at night is not good...

He mentioned he used the following bathymetry map. Wow, I didn't know such things existed. It is very cool! Thank you, friend:)