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Md. commission to review changes in turbine size for 2 offshore wind farms

Maryland regulators will examine the potential impacts of modifications to the plans for two wind projects being developed off the coast of Ocean City, Md.

The state Public Service Commission on Dec. 13 opened a limited inquiry into the possible effects of using bigger-than-planned turbines for US Wind Inc.'s 270-MW Marwin Project, which is part of the larger Ocean City Offshore Wind Project, and Ørsted A/S's 120-MW Skipjack Offshore Wind Project.

The commission approved both projects in 2017, but the developers have since increased the size of the turbines they plan to use.

U.S. Wind initially planned to use 4-MW turbines that no longer are commercially available, and the company accordingly is considering 8-MW or 10-MW turbines from Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy SA or 12-MW turbines from GE Renewable Energy. Ørsted plans to use 12-MW GE Renewable Energy turbines for the Skipjack project, up from the 8-MW turbines once planned for the facility.

The turbine changes prompted calls for the PSC to review the projects, including from the Town of Ocean City. The town argued that using the larger turbines could alter ocean views and hurt tourism.

In granting Ocean City's request for a hearing, the commission said the new turbine models and sizes "constitute material changes" to the projects, and inquiring into those changes and considering their impacts accordingly is appropriate. The commission scheduled a public comment hearing for Jan. 18, 2020, in Ocean City, and said further proceedings may follow.

However, the agency rejected Ocean City's request to reconsider its order approving the projects, finding that doing so would not be "necessary or appropriate."

The Skipjack facility is slated to come online in 2022, while Marwin is set to come online in 2023. (Md. PSC case nos. 9628 and 9629)