Feds select possible new offshore wind areas off the coast of Maryland beaches

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Federal regulators have chosen three new areas that could host offshore wind farms off the Mid-Atlantic East Coast, including sites off Ocean City, Virginia Beach and the Delaware beaches.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is “committed” to hold an auction for what it calls the Central Atlantic by August 2024, determining which companies get to lease the selected areas to construct wind farms, said bureau spokesman John Filostrat in a statement.


It would be the first auction for wind farm territory along Maryland’s coastline in nearly a decade, inching the state closer to achieving its recently expanded wind energy goal, advocates say.

“There will be a ton of interest in Maryland specifically, because Maryland does have an emerging supply chain. They have the ports. They have a supportive state government,” said Sam Salustro, the director of Maryland coalitions and partnership at the Business Network for Offshore Wind. “Exciting is a funny way of saying it, but it should be exciting — in a nerdy kind of way.”


One of the new areas announced earlier this week is about 23.5 nautical miles southeast of Ocean City, according to the bureau. It is south of the U.S. Wind project currently under development about 15 miles directly east of Ocean City, and it largely runs parallel to Assateague Island.

Another new wind area is off the Delaware beaches and northern Ocean City, but it is farther offshore, behind the U.S. Wind and the Skipjack projects. Construction has not begun on those two projects, which still are working their way through the federal approval process.

The final new area is offshore of Virginia, 35 nautical miles off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, and it also is behind an already-leased wind farm territory.

But several steps remain to be completed before the three areas can be leased, and it’s possible the list of sites could narrow before then. This week’s announcement narrowed the list from eight to three.

First, there must be a public comment period for the three sites, and an environmental review that covers the ecological impacts of allowing companies to survey the territory.

In a news release earlier this week, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which handles the leasing process, stated that the area off the coast of Ocean City and Assateague, named Area B-1, will continue to undergo an “in-depth review” to determine whether Department of Defense and NASA activities in the area “could co-exist with wind energy development.” The results of the review will determine whether B-1 should be included in the eventual sale.

“With this major demand, it’s really important that we keep area B-1, which BOEM in their analysis said was the one they were a little bit iffy on,” said John Begala, the vice president for federal and state policy at the Business Network for Offshore Wind.

The new area also could draw fresh criticism from leaders in Ocean City, who have opposed wind farms that could be visible from the town’s lucrative beaches.


In February, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan and the City Council issued a news release arguing wind farm development should be halted after several dead whales washed ashore on the east coast. Federal officials investigating the incidents said at the time that the deaths were not associated with any offshore wind activities.

In July, the council approved a contract with a consulting firm to study U.S. Wind’s construction plan, with several officials expressing hopes that the firm could poke holes in it and force the company to move the project away from Ocean City, according The Dispatch, a local newspaper.

A spokesperson for the Town of Ocean City did not respond to a request for comment on the new proposed area.

If the new area off Maryland’s coast is leased and developed, it would bring the state closer to its goal of establishing 8.5 gigawatts of wind energy by 2031. But advocates at the Business Network for Offshore Wind estimate that it would not fully accomplish the goal.

“We are really hopeful that this is just the first bite of the apple in terms of further leasing in the Central Atlantic, and this is not the endgame,” Begala said.

The two projects planned off the Maryland coast from U.S. Wind and Skipjack would produce about 2 gigawatts.


It’s estimated that combined the three new sites selected by the federal agency could add 4 to 8 gigawatts of wind energy, if fully developed, contributing to a nationwide goal of 30 gigawatts by 2030, established by President Joe Biden. (A gigawatt is enough energy to power about 300,000 homes.)

In a statement, Filostrat said that BOEM, which was established in 2010 under the Department of the Interior, “will continue to collaborate with federal and state agencies, Tribes, ocean users, and impacted stakeholders to consider other wind energy areas in the Central Atlantic for a possible second sale in the future.”

In a statement, Carter Elliott, a spokesman for Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said the governor and the Maryland Energy Administration have “engaged the White House, Department of the Interior, and other federal agencies throughout the process” of choosing the new wind sites.

“We are now reviewing BOEM’s most recent Wind Energy Area designations to determine a path forward for Maryland,” Elliott wrote. “We will continue to work in partnership with all stakeholders to maximize the lease areas available to Maryland now and in the future, and remain optimistic that we can meet Maryland’s targets for offshore wind.”

It’s possible that additional lease areas could come in deeper waters even farther from the coast. As part of its Central Atlantic study, the bureau evaluated a few such sites, but none were chosen as part of the final three. Establishing wind farms on those sites would be more difficult with existing technology, Begala said.

“It is floating platforms that are anchored to the sea floor. And that technology is underdeveloped,” Begala said. “As soon as you can economically, feasibly build out offshore wind in those really deep water areas, you suddenly open up areas with much more consistent winds, and less confliction. There’s way less conflict for ocean space.”