ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A company seeking to build an offshore wind farm off the Delaware coast has begun discussions about building the wind turbines in Maryland waters, too, according to state and company officials.
Bluewater Wind, a New Jersey energy company, wants to put 150 turbines 11 1/2 miles off the coast of the resort town of Ocean City. If approved, the wind farm could one day provide enough power for 110,000 homes, according to Bluewater spokesman James Lanard.
"It's very preliminary," Lanard said of talks with Maryland officials. Bluewater has met with aides to Gov. Martin O'Malley and with members of the utility-regulating Public Service Commission.
The proposal, first reported Friday by The (Baltimore) Sun, would bring clean energy to Maryland but would change the view from Ocean City's beaches. Even from several miles away, the turbines would be visible from land.
Lanard said the turbines would look like "toothpicks," but residents who work on the waterfront had mixed opinions about the possibility of an offshore wind farm.
"Energy-wise it would probably be a good thing — but looks-wise, I don't know," said Terri Hathaway, a waitress at Boardwalk Joe's restaurant along the resort's beach.
Bluewater Wind is in talks to build the nation's first offshore wind farm off Sussex County, Del., near Rehoboth Beach, Lanard said. If approved, that farm could be completed by 2012 or 2013.
O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said Friday that Bluewater officials have just started to talk about a Maryland wind farm with state officials. Approval would be needed from several agencies, from the PSC to the Department of Natural Resources, which would analyze the wind farm's potential effect on wildlife.
Abbruzzese said the governor found the wind proposal "an intriguing idea" but wants to learn more about it.
"We need to find ways to produce alternative forms of energy," he said.
A state environmental group applauded the idea to build turbines off the coast of Ocean City.
"Marylanders are becoming widely aware of how vulnerable we are to global warming and sea level rise," said Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
Tidwell said aesthetic concerns shouldn't block plans to build wind turbines. Waterfront homeowners who opposed view-changing turbines were blamed for stopping wind farm plans in Massachusetts. However, Tidwell said, the alternative of doing nothing to stop global warming is worse.
"If you say you don't want a dime-size windmill in the distance, we'll have to abandon all the hotels and all the houses and all the restaurants because the ocean's coming to swallow them," he said.
Not all beach denizens worried about the view. Angel Conner, manager of the Shoreham Hotel on Ocean's City's boardwalk, said she doubted people would stop coming to Ocean City because of wind turbines.
"I don't think it would affect us, as long as they could still see the water," Conner said.
Lanard, the Bluewater spokesman, said the company is aware that wind turbines are a new concept in the United States. He said the company is in no rush to build them because all stakeholders need a chance to learn about the proposal.
"It hasn't been done in the United States, so there's no frame of reference and we're trying to introduce the idea to folks," Lanard said.
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