US city grows wind energy sector, meets political and business concerns

Global Business

In a major speech last month, President Donald Trump said the Unites States is “on the cusp of a true energy revolution.”

And the President made it clear that development of the coal sector is a top priority, instead of promoting cleaner energy sources like wind power.

Meanwhile America’s wind industry is moving on without him. Maryland state officials have approved a plan for two U.S. firms to build the nation’s largest ever offshore wind farm off the coast of Ocean City, a popular tourist destination.

But the project is also facing opposition from local lawmakers who fear visitors will be turned away by 180-meter tall wind turbines on the horizon.

CGTN’s Giles Gibson reports

With its wooden boardwalk, Ocean City is a classic American beach town. But its sweeping views of the Atlantic could be about to change.

The two planned wind farms – similar but much larger in scale to this one near Rhode Island – could be as close as 20 kilometers offshore.

Local businessmen and city council members said they’re concerned the project could damage the local economy.

“The most valuable real estate in town is the oceanfront,” Wayne Hartman, Ocean City Council Member said. “The highest rates for the tourists are the, you know, ocean front rooms and lodging. Everything is based on the ocean view.”

Hartman wants the proposed wind farms built further offshore and out of sight.

But environmentalists say they will bring economic benefits including new jobs and — eventually, cheaper electricity.

The Sierra Club’s Chris Kresowik said regulators gave the green light only after an extensive review.

“Looking at — would these projects provide net benefits to the state of Maryland,” Kresowik said, “and the answer was overwhelmingly: yes.”

US Wind, one of the two companies involved, says expansion of the project in future phases means the farm could eventually power half a million homes.

The U.S. has the world’s second largest wind power capacity – but still lags far behind leader China.

Kresowik said parts of the country, such as his home state of Iowa, are seeing success.

“We now get more than 35 percent of our electricity from wind power,” he said, “where they’ve created thousands of jobs, where farmers are getting significant revenues from leasing their land for these turbines.”

Nationally wind accounts for just 2 percent of America’s energy generation – far lower than many European countries.

And the Trump administration’s energy policy remains unclear – the President himself is a critic of wind power, promising instead to promote coal, oil, nuclear and natural gas.

But supporters of wind are hoping despite the President’s personal skepticism, more offshore wind development could be on the horizon.