Amid offshore wind fight, Ocean City to power municipal buildings with new solar farm

Ocean City plans to break ground Thursday on a solar farm that will generate enough power to run the resort town's convention center and municipal buildings.

In a statement, Mayor Rick Meehan called it “a true example of the Town of Ocean City’s commitment to renewable energy and a sustainable future for our resort community.”

The project comes as town leaders fight an offshore wind farm they say could disrupt beach views and send tourists elsewhere. The City Council decided in May even free electricity wouldn’t justify the project, rejecting such an offer from developer U.S. Wind in a closed-door session in May.

U.S. Wind is planning to build 32 wind turbines a minimum of 17 nautical miles from shore. The company’s renderings show them appearing as specks on the horizon on a clear day.

But Ocean City leaders say they fear the project will be more imposing than that. They also worry it could grow — Maryland regulators approved U.S. Wind for as many as 64 turbines as close as 14 miles from shore.

The solar farm will only be 10 miles from beaches — but in the opposite direction. Constellation Energy Group plans to build 30,000 photovoltaic panels on 113 acres near Berlin, at the intersection of U.S. Route 50 and State Route 90, the Ocean City Expressway.

Constellation said the Gateway Solar project helps satisfy a requirement that its parent company, Chicago-based Exelon Corp., build at least 10 megawatts of solar energy on the Delmarva peninsula. That was a condition Maryland regulators placed on Exelon in approving its 2016 purchase of Pepco Holdings, the parent company of utility Delmarva Power and Light.

Ocean City officials said the project accounts for 20 percent of the town’s energy use. Through a deal with Constellation offering the energy below , the project will save Ocean City taxpayers $120,000 per year, town officials said.

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