Maryland regulators could approve up to 870 megawatts of new offshore wind power capacity after two developers met an application deadline to build the state’s first ocean-based wind farms on the Atlantic outer continental shelf.
The applicants include US Wind Inc., which plans to build up to 750 MW of wind power capacity roughly 12 miles east of Ocean City. If approved, the 187-turbine project would begin producing power in 2020, according to company officials.
A second proposal, revealed last week by the Maryland Public Service Commission, came from Deepwater Wind Holdings LLC, the Providence, R.I., developer that recently completed construction of the nation’s first offshore wind farm at Block Island, R.I., a 30-MW facility that will begin commercial operation this winter.
Deepwater Wind told Maryland regulators it wants to build a 120-MW wind farm at a site roughly 17 nautical miles northeast of Ocean City. The project, to be called the Skipjack Wind Farm, would deliver its first power in 2022.
"We’re bringing down the cost of American offshore wind energy in a big way," Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said in a statement. "Ratepayers in Maryland will benefit from energy that is both clean and affordable."
Pending approvals, developers would also have to construct substations and subsurface transmission cables to deliver the wind energy to Maryland’s onshore grid. The PSC has asked both companies to submit public and confidential versions of their proposals by Nov. 30, and will begin soliciting public comment soon after, with a final decision on the projects expected by May 17, 2017.
Tori Leonard, a spokeswoman for the PSC, said the five-member commission could approve one or both of the proposals under terms established by the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013.
The law, signed by former Gov. Martin O’Malley, created an offshore wind carve-out within Maryland’s renewable energy portfolio standard requiring that 2.5 percent of the state’s total retail electricity sales be derived from offshore wind turbines by 2017.
To incentivize developers, Maryland created an offshore renewable energy credit (OREC) program that will help defray some of the high costs of building wind turbines offshore.
Only one-third of the US Wind project, or 250 MW of capacity, would be eligible to receive ORECs, according to Paul Rich, the company’s director of project development. If the full 750 MW of capacity is built, the wind farm would supply enough electricity to power roughly 500,000 Maryland homes, officials said.
In an interview last week with Maryland Public Television, Rich said a detailed ocean survey was completed in 2015 on its proposed development site. He added that the Maryland OREC program "will help the project get off the ground," but that workforce development remains one of the largest challenges to moving the project forward.
US Wind is a subsidiary of the Italian renewable energy firm Renexia SpA, which develops wind, solar, hydropower and geothermal projects for the infrastructure and engineering conglomerate Toto Holding Group.