The U.S. House of Representatives is considering legislation that would stymie a proposed wind farm project off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland.
U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), who introduced the bill, says he is acting to protect his constituents because the windmills could hurt tourism and decrease real-estate values.
In May, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PUC) approved subsidies for two wind farm projects off the coast of Ocean City. One project, managed by U.S. Wind, would erect at least 41 turbines a minimum of 17 miles from shore. A second project, managed by Skipjack Offshore Energy, would site 15 turbines 19.5 miles or more from shore.
The PUC approved the subsidies for both projects over the objections of Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who in April said he supported subsidies for the Skipjack project but asked PUC not to grant taxpayer money to U.S. Wind’s project because of concerns about its proximity to and visibility from land.
Harris’s legislation would prohibit the federal government from licensing, approving construction plans for, or inspecting any wind turbines off Maryland’s coast closer than 24 nautical miles from shore. This provision would effectively kill the two offshore wind projects because federal government approval is needed for the construction and placement plans of all offshore windfarms.
John Droz, director of the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions, says Maryland’s offshore wind projects are special interest schemes.
“The Maryland offshore wind project is a deal put together by special-interest lobbyists, and no scientific assessment was ever done by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or any other agency, to verify this project will produce a net societal benefit,” Droz said. “In fact, if we look at what independent experts have concluded, there is substantial evidence the Maryland project will be a technical, environmental, and economic net liability.”
Droz says Hogan and Harris are right to be concerned about the wind farms’ potential impact on tourism.
“A study done by North Carolina State University, people who are wind energy proponents, concluded that as many as 80 percent of coastal tourists would not return to an area where offshore industrial turbines are visible,” Droz said. “Note that these tourists are people who indicated they support wind energy.”
Aesthetics and Subsidies
Nick Zaiac, a policy analyst with the Maryland Public Policy Institute, says locals often object to offshore wind projects, but if subsidies are removed from the picture, there may be cases where wind farms make economic sense.
“Coastal residents everywhere complain about the impact of windmills on ocean views, and Marylanders are no different,” Zaiac said. “The concerns of local groups over aesthetics and navigation must be balanced with the needs of energy consumers.
“If government subsidies are kept to a minimum, offshore wind may have a place in America’s energy portfolio,” said Zaiac.
Michael McGrady ([email protected]) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Sanja Lutzeyer, Daniel J. Phaneuf, and Laura O. Taylor, “The Amenity Costs of Offshore Wind Farms: Evidence from a Choice Experiment,” North Carolina State University, April 2016: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/the-amenity-costs-of-offshore-wind-farms—evidence-from-a-choice-experiment