Josh Kurtz: The View from Here

A plane trails a banner warning Ocean City visitors that their ocean views could be ruined if wind turbines are placed at sea. Photo by Genevieve Kurtz

An Ocean City vacation carries multiple pleasures (and occasional misery), but let’s face it, with all due respect – ecotourism it ain’t.

But that, essentially, is the argument town officials have been making as they scramble to defeat two proposed offshore wind energy projects that are going through a long and complicated federal approval process.

Town officials – and their allies, who include U.S. Rep. Andrew P. Harris (R) – have been crying wolf about the ocean views that could be ruined by the dim silhouette of wind energy turbines miles off the coast.

Tourism revenues will be jeopardized, they warn. Property values will plummet! The Ocean City vacation experience will be irreparably damaged!

Really?

Look around Ocean City. Yes, there are pretty views (I’d argue that the bay views are nicer than the ocean views, especially at sunset). Yes, the beach is great.

But I repeat – look around Ocean City. The boardwalk, the carnival rides, the mini-golf, the bars and restaurants and crowds. The endless tape loop of surf shops, fast food joints, liquor stores and ice cream parlors. And did I mention the crowds?

While vacationers certainly enjoy the beach, and swimming, and boating, and fishing, and other outdoor activities, they do not come to Ocean City for a nature vacation. They come for the hustle and bustle, the Diane Arbus-y parade of humanity, the fries, the popcorn, the booze, the flesh, the carnival games, the neon necklace along the coastal highway.

Please do not tell me that any of this experience will be ruined by the presence of offshore wind turbines. Frankly, it’s preposterous and insulting.

The other night, I was standing outside a restaurant in West Ocean City. The lights across the bay were mesmerizing, especially on the Ferris wheel. It was nice to stand by the water. But this did not feel like a night in nature.

Yet the scare tactics persist.

Most days, visitors to Ocean City (and Delaware beaches just to the north) are greeted with an airplane flying a banner that cries, “Save Our Beach View.” It directs people to a website, saveourbeachview.com.

This website is run by the Caesar Rodney Institute, a right-wing think tank based in Dover, Del., “committed to protecting individual liberty.” So the plane is presumably paid for by the think tank as well. (Caesar Rodney, for you history buffs, was an 18th Century Delaware politician and signer of the Declaration of Independence.)

The last IRS disclosure forms filed online by the think tank cover the year 2016, and it’s impossible to tell where the funding comes from. No matter. The think tank does a lot of work in the energy space. And the rhetoric is clearly part of a political hit job – plain (or should we say plane?) and simple.

The wind turbine projects have been referenced at last twice during this week’s Maryland Association of Counties conference in Ocean City. On Thursday, Jason M. Stanek, the chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission, which approved both projects (before Stanek took over a year ago), said the wind turbines would help the state meet its ambitious renewable energy goals.

As for the threats of the viewshed being marred, Stanek, during a Power Point presentation, observed, “If you squint really close, you can see it.”

This is no wild-eyed environmentalist. Stanek is a veteran, wonky energy regulator, appointed by Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. to head the PSC. For years he worked for congressional Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

A day earlier, officials from Ørsted, a Danish power company that took over the Skipjack project last November, updated county leaders about their progress. The Ørsted turbines will actually be in Delaware waters, about 26 miles from the Ocean City pier.

Again and again, without ever saying so and while peppering the audience with technical details and throwing around jargon like NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act) and RODA (the Responsible Offshore Developers Association – not Morgenstern), the company executives, construction manager Prem Pereira and community liaison Megan Outten, exuded some level of exasperation with their critics. They talked repeatedly about the turbines’ economic benefit to the Eastern Shore – and the entire state.

Reading between the lines, the two essentially suggested that wind energy foes are entitled to their opinions, but not to their own set of facts.

“All we can do right now is put out our information on the project,” Outten, who is based in Salisbury, said in an interview.

Here’s a bold prediction: If these offshore wind projects are ever built off the coast of Ocean City, they’ll provide an interesting, eye-catching visual, just as the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum shark, the statuary at the mini-golf courses and the large Kohr’s ice cream cone do. And that’s if they’re visible at all.

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Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

6 COMMENTS

  1. The Block Island Tourism Council claims that tourism has increased since wind turbines were installed three miles off their coast. When turbines were proposed some ten years ago only ten miles from OC the Ocean City Council approved.

  2. Last time I looked a person standing about 5’7″ can only see for 2.9 miles to the horizon. If that person was in a 100 foot tower they could see about 12 miles. Are the towers going to be further than that? 26 miles from the Ocean City pier according to the above article.

  3. The save our beach view website shows some significant information, that few permanent jobs will be created, the project will raise the cost of electricity to Maryland residents and businesses in the Billions of dollars, that there is no regional environmental benefit. Mr Kurtz says you won’t be able to see the towers when in fact, there are illustrations on this website that shows what they will look like, and how about all those dozens of flashing red warning navigation lights at night. you can see ship lights out much further than the 12-17 miles the wind turbines will be located. I don’t think the mayor of Ocean City and the entire city council, as well as the commercial fishing industry wish to move these 650 foot towers further out to see unless they felt there was legitimate reason to do so. Must we destroy nature in order to try to save it?

  4. The wind turbines will be very visible at certain times, always at night due to the dozens of red flashing lights, the lease area is as close as 12 miles from the shore. but even at 18 miles 516 feet of a 643-foot tower would be above the visible horizon.

    My great fear is that folks are not that worried, but once they see what it all will look like after the installation, folks will ask, “what they hell happened to our beach, it has become an industrial landscape”

  5. Hydroelectric and nuclear power do not generate any CO2 when producing power. I find it incredible that those who are legitimately concerned about a climate crisis want to eliminate nuclear power, which generates over 25% of the electricity in the USA. In the 13 state PJM electrical grid, wind and solar only generate about 3.5% of total power demand. https://gats.pjm-eis.com/GATS2/PublicReports/PJMSystemMix

    Wind and solar are not a solution, they can not replace conventional sources of power simply because the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine.

    From the International Energy Agency’s 2016 Key Renewables Trends, we can see that wind provided 0.46 per cent of global energy consumption in 2014, and solar and tide combined provided 0.35 per cent. Energy demand growing 2%, need about 350,000 2MW wind turbines annually to supply just the growth. In 50 years, cover the size of Russia. Wind turbines need about 200 times as much material per unit of capacity as a modern combined cycle gas turbine.

    Solar farms also require up to 5,000 times more land than nuclear plants and 10-15 times more concrete, cement, steel and glass, putting increased demand on the minerals needed to create solar farms. 

    Here are 46 reasons why wind power can not replace fossil fuels.
    http://energyskeptic.com/2019/wind/

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