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Offshore wind turbines will likely line Maryland’s coast by 2026

Over 100 wind turbines will soon dot the Maryland coastline, pending federal approval, as part of a series of offshore renewable energy projects.

The projects, developed by companies US Wind and Ørsted, are slated to collectively power more than 600,000 homes in Delaware and Maryland upon their completion in 2026. The construction and maintenance of the turbines will also create thousands of jobs in Maryland.

The wind turbines will sit about 20 miles from Maryland’s shores — visible from the region’s most popular beaches — and are among some of the first to be constructed along the Atlantic coast.

US Wind’s projects include MarWind, a 20-turbine project set to generate 270 megawatts annually, and MomentumWind, a 55-turbine project set to generate around 808.5 megawatts annually.

Ørsted will develop Skipjack 1, a 10-turbine project capable of generating 120 megawatts annually, and Skipjack 2, a 60-turbine project capable of generating 846 megawatts annually.

For context, one megawatt is equivalent to the amount of energy produced by 10 car engines. And one rotation of a Skipjack 2 turbine, according to Ørsted, would power a single Maryland or Delaware home for 19 hours.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) awarded an 80,000-acre federal lease to US Wind in 2014, and awarded two leases to Ørsted for 70,000 acres in 2012 and 26,000 acres in 2018.

The Maryland Public Service Commission (MPSC) approved the initial round of projects — MarWind and Skipjack 1 — in 2017. But after the passage of the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act in 2019, US Wind and Ørsted petitioned for more offshore renewable energy credits, which they received in late 2021.

The projects also call for the creation of two steel manufacturing facilities, which will provide hundreds of thousands of jobs to Marylanders.

US Wind, based in Baltimore, will revamp a monopile steel construction facility in Sparrows Point, Maryland, at the former site of a Bethlehem Steel factory. Ørsted will renovate and manage Crystal Steel Fabricators’ facility in Federalsburg, Maryland.

MPSC also required the companies to create a minimum of 10,324 direct jobs during the development and operating phases of each wind farm. Under the agreement, each company will donate $6 million to the Maryland Offshore Wind Business Development Fund, a grant program designed to lower barrier entry costs for emerging businesses in the offshore wind industry.

The benefits of offshore wind turbines for Maryland extend beyond a boost to the economy, though.

Miles away from land, offshore turbines can capture more energy than onshore turbines due to the higher and more consistent winds found at sea, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. These winds reach the highest speeds during the afternoons and evenings, when Americans consume the most energy.

However, their impact on beach views have become a point of contention among local officials — especially in Ocean City, Maryland.

Ocean City officials voiced their concerns about the wind farms’ proximity to the coastline during a MPSC public hearing in September, but fell short in their proposal to push the turbines farther out to sea.

The commission again declined the city’s request to move the turbines an extra 10 miles farther in December due to pending reviews from BOEM. But MPSC has tasked US Wind and Ørsted with minimizing the farms’ impact on daytime and nighttime beach views.

“Ocean City supports clean energy initiatives including offshore wind, but not at the expense of our viewshed and our future,” Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said in a statement. “Right now, only one lease area exists off the coast of Maryland… a new federal lease area could be established further offshore to preserve and protect our viewshed.”

In comparison, US Wind and Ørsted’s Mid-Atlantic projects comprise just a fraction of the total wind farms in progress along the Atlantic coast. Over the next decade, developers will construct dozens of offshore wind farms spanning from Maine to North Carolina.

On Feb. 25, the Biden-Harris administration drew in a record $4.37 billion in high bids for leases off the New Jersey and New York coast designated specifically for offshore wind development. The auctions — in addition to the projects currently in progress — align with the administration’s goal of installing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.

Ørsted, a Denmark-based company, is currently tasked with developing five east coast wind farms — Revolution Wind, South Fork Wind, Sunrise Wind, Ocean Wind and Skipjack — in addition to the 12-megawatt farm the company already built off Virginia’s coast.

When complete, Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind will become the largest offshore wind farm in the country, with 176 turbines capable of generating 2,600 megawatts. Dominion Energy, the project’s developer, expects the project to begin operations by 2026.

Empire Wind — located off New York’s coast — will power nearly 300,000 more homes than the Virginia project, despite it generating a gigawatt less. Operations for that project are not expected to begin until 2027.

But the federal government has to review development plans before many of these projects can begin construction, including those planned along the Maryland coast.

BOEM, for example, is currently conducting environmental reviews for Skipjack 2 and MomentumWind. And with remaining acres in US Wind and Ørsted’s lease areas, the companies could continue to introduce new projects along Maryland’s coast.