Feds Cut Offshore Wind Farm Area by Half

Source:

"The U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies weighed in with concerns about the possible impact on heavy shipping travel."

The Dispatch, Shawn Soper

A federal report released outlining the future of offshore wind farms off the mid-Atlantic slashed the original area off the coast by half.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) this week released an Environmental Assessment (EA), outlining several alternatives for Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and New Jersey.

The reduction in the Maryland wind energy area (WEA) was made after the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies weighed in with concerns about the possible impact on the heavy shipping travel coming out of the Delaware Bay from busy ports in Philadelphia and Wilmington, for example.

In its recommendations, the Coast Guard divided the area designated off the coast of Maryland into three categories including areas that should not be developed due to existing and anticipated future increase in vessel traffic density, areas that require further study, and areas in which wind energy development would pose minimal or no detrimental impact on navigational safety. In the final analysis, Maryland's site was cut by more than half.

State officials say the elimination does not curtail Maryland's ambitious goals.

However, private sector developers who will potentially bid on the leases for the areas off the coast of Ocean City have expressed concerns.

"With the turbines three quarters of a mile apart, 79,000 acres is not that much space," NRG Bluewater President Peter Mandelstam said. "The governor and his staff are very focused on job creation and clean energy production, but in order to accomplish that, Maryland needs to do a big project with robust competition."

With less competition for a much smaller area, the ratepayers could ultimately pay more despite the reduced area.

"It makes it more difficult to reduce the cost for the ratepayers," he said. "It's a shame because there is plenty of ocean out there."

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