U.S. Wind says Ocean City offshore wind project face significant delay

Source: By Matthew Prensky, Salisbury Daily Times • Posted: Monday, December 9, 2019

As the offshore wind energy debate heats up in Maryland, the next steps for Delaware’s involvement in the industry remain uncertain.

In a letter to the Maryland Public Service Commission, U.S. Wind informed the state that the completion of its offshore wind farm will be delayed by two years.

The company now says the project is due to be completed in 2023 rather than 2021.

“U.S. Wind’s estimated commercial operation date may continue to change as its qualified offshore wind project develops or as unforeseen variables may arise,” according to the Nov. 25 letter from U.S. Wind Country Manager Salvo Vitale.

Vitale also told the commission that the installation of its meteorology tower, a precursor to the larger wind turbines would also be delayed until next year, according to the letter. The meteorology tower was due to be installed this past summer.

In a written statement Thursday, Vitale said it’s common for renewable energy projects to be delayed. Those delays, he said, could be for a number of reasons, most related to the permitting process. In this case, Vitale didn’t provide a specific reason for the delay.

“While originally we were hoping to achieve the OCD (Commercial Operation Date) by 2021, we must note that we are still well on track to complete the project in the timeframe imposed by the Maryland Public Service Commission of 2025,” Vitale said.

BACKGROUND: Taller, more distant turbines put Ocean City offshore wind projects back under state review

In regards to the meteorology tower, Vitale said the construction delay came at the last minute.

“This is due to a number of concurrent factors, including Hurricane Dorian, the unfortunate business failure of our first contractor and all that came after it,” Vitale said.

Greg Tucker, a spokesperson for U.S. Wind clarified that the first contractor went out of business, leading to the delay.

This isn’t the first change to U.S. Wind’s project this fall. In October, U.S. Wind informed the Public Service Commission that the company decided it would look at larger wind turbines than the original four megawatt turbines it had proposed, according to a copy of the letter from Oct. 1.

All grown up! Take a look at how wind energy has evolved through the years.

👉 https://t.co/ZLAV78XPXk pic.twitter.com/IxpaGv8uI3

— Energy Department (@ENERGY) July 26, 2019

Carville Collins, counsel for U.S. Wind said the company would consider six, eight and 10 megawatt turbines, which are larger, but added that no final decision had been made as of Oct. 1.

In a previous interview with Delmarva Now, Vitale said the change in plan would reduce the total number of turbines and push them farther off the coast of Ocean City. The new turbines could be 20 miles from shore, 3 miles farther east than what was originally proposed.

In response to the change in plans a number of state legislators, the town of Ocean City and the Maryland Energy Administration all wrote to the Public Service Commission asking the body to review U.S. Wind’s changes to the project.

Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan previously said  the town was “very concerned” about the project and its proximity to Ocean City’s shoreline along with the possible size and visual impacts of the new, larger wind turbines.

The commission has received a number of letters about the U.S. Wind, said Tori Leonard, communications director for the Maryland Public Service Commission. Leonard added the commission is reviewing the submissions before it makes a determination if further action is needed.