Ørsted/Skipjack wind farm gets Md. PSC OK for larger turbines

OCEAN CITY, Md. — Danish wind-power company Ørsted is applauding the Maryland Public Service Commission’s recent approval of the Skipjack Wind Farm’s use of larger wind turbines for the 120-megawatt offshore wind farm planned off the Delaware/Maryland coast.

“Ørsted is pleased that the Maryland Public Service Commission approved the project’s longstanding commitment to use the best commercially available turbine technology,” said Brady Walker, Ørsted’s Mid-Atlantic market manager. “The project will continue to engage with all stakeholders on creating a project that all Marylanders can be proud of. We look forward to continuing our work in delivering clean and reliable energy to over 35,000 homes in the Delmarva region.”

In its Nov. 30, 2016 application, Skipjack stated it had selected the 8 MW (megawatt) offshore wind turbine but noted its selection of a wind turbine was subject to change due to continuing improvements in turbine design.

In June 2019 Skipjack notified the Maryland PSC through confidential correspondence that it had chosen the General Electric Haliade-X 12 MW turbine as its final selection for the project.

Skipjack, proposed in response to Maryland’s Offshore Wind Act of 2013, will provide clean power to upward of 35,000 homes and can help Maryland meet its clean-energy and emission-reduction goals, according to Ørsted.

Delaware is a player in Skipjack as the potential onshore interconnect base for the wind farm project.

This past July, Ørsted withdrew plans for a proposed interconnect facility at Fenwick Island State Park, citing environmental concerns for undisturbed wetlands.

In a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Ørsted was to provide upward of $18 million in amenities and upgrades at Fenwick Island State Park, the proposed location for the power interconnection facility for distribution to the PJM (Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Maryland). The PJM is a regional transmission organization that coordinates movement of wholesale electricity throughout the Mid-Atlantic region as well as other neighboring states.

The Skipjack project has met opposition, including Fenwick Island officials. In December 2019, Fenwick Island town council passed a resolution opposing the DNREC/Ørsted plan, citing impact on adjacent properties, concerns about the substation location and visibility of wind farms from Fenwick Island’s shorelines.

Ørsted representatives have said the wind turbines for Skipjack will be located approximately 19.5 miles from the Delmarva coast.

With Fenwick Island State Park site shelved as the interconnect site, Ørsted’s list includes several locations in southeastern Sussex County — Bethany and Cedar Neck.

Ørsted has indicated it hopes to announce an alternative site in the coming weeks.

In its decision following a Jan. 18 public hearing in Ocean City, Maryland’s PSC determined Skipjack’s selection of the Haliade-X will reduce the number of wind turbines needed for the project from 15 to 12 or fewer turbines, which will be spaced approximately one mile apart.

The reduced number of turbines will facilitate an alternative turbine layout, which Skipjack indicated will likely consist of a grid pattern of two rows of five or six structures perpendicular to the Delaware coast, each oriented in an east-west manner. This alternative layout minimizes the visual impact of the project, which has been the main objection to the project.

The town of Ocean City argued that the 12 MW turbines will impose a negative visual impact because they are three times taller than the highest building in Ocean City.

Ocean City Rick Mayor Meehan testified that although the town supports renewable energy, “if the wind turbines are built within Ocean City’s viewshed, this will have a significantly damaging effect on Ocean City’s tourism and economy.”

Mayor Meehan testified that Ocean City’s iconic ocean view of the sunrise could be marred and negatively impact the experience of the 8 million tourists who visit Ocean City annually. Mayor Meehan further argued that Skipjack’s selection of the 12 MW turbines could have a negative effect on property value, because property is purchased in Ocean City for the view of the beach.

To mitigate potential harms to tourism and property values, Ocean City urged the commission to require Skipjack to move the turbines at least 33 miles from the town, noting that the South Fork Wind Farm in development in Long Island will consist of 15 turbines located 35 miles from Montauk Point, which will be out of sight from Long Island beaches.

Skipjack’s response was “It is not possible to move the Skipjack Project 33.2 statute miles from the Maryland shore and still comply with Maryland law and the restrictions of the federal offshore lease area.”

Also, Skipjack testified that use of 12 MW turbine will enable the project to be located, at its closest, approximately 21.5 to 22.7 miles from the Maryland coast, rather than 19.5 miles projected with use of the 8 MW turbine layout.