(Aug. 22, 2014) The U.S. Department of the Interior Tuesday auctioned the rights to nearly 80,000 acres off Ocean City’s coast for wind energy development.
US Wind Inc., a subsidiary of Italy-based renewable energy developer Renexia SpA, placed the winning bid of $8.7 million for both tracts, a North Lease Area of 32,737 acres and South Lease Area of 46,970 acres.
Combined, the space is capable of powering about 300,000 homes, the Department of the Interior said in a release.
“We need a jobs agenda to match our climate challenge,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said in a statement. “Expanding renewable energy, like we’re doing here, will bring Maryland’s vision for clean energy one step closer to reality and clearly set our state apart on the country’s renewable energy landscape.”
According to the nonprofit Business Network for Maryland Offshore Wind, the construction, operations and maintenance of the project could generate more than $400 million in local revenue and up to 450 long-term jobs.
“Operations and maintenance … provides the biggest opportunity for local jobs and putting money into the local economy,” said Liz Burdock, executive director of the Network for Maryland Offshore Wind, at a meeting earlier this year.
The Wind Energy Area is located at its closest 10 nautical miles, or just under 12 miles, from shore, leading some to question whether it will create an eyesore for Ocean City beachgoers.
“While turbines might be visible on a clear day at this distance, on most days they will be obscured by haze,” said Andrew Gohn, senior clean energy program manager for the Maryland Energy Administration. Even at prime visibility, they should appear about the size of a thumbnail on a fully extended arm or a matchstick, he said.
During a preliminary, one-year lease, US Wind will issue a site assessment plan to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Mangement for approval. Upon approval, the company will have four and a half years to submit a detailed construction and operations plan to BOEM.
After BOEM receives the plan, it will conduct an environmental review of the proposed project including public input. Upon final approval, US Wind will hold the offshore area for 25 years.
The auction lasted one day and consisted of 19 rounds with Green Sail Energy LLC and SCS Maryland Energy LLC also participating, the Department of the Interior said in its release.
“We’re pleased to see such strong commercial interest in today’s auction,” said BOEM’s Acting Director Walter Cruickshank Tuesday.
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell called the auction “a major achievement” that shows “industry confidence as we strengthen our nation’s foothold in this new energy frontier.”
“The collaboration and thoughtful planning that went into this lease sale will serve as a model as we continue up and down the coast in our efforts to ensure wind energy is developed in the right way,” she said.
The wind farm site off Ocean City is the third of its kind, with 112,799 offshore acres auctioned in Virginia and 164,750 in Rhode Island and Massachusetts last year.