Maryland’s nascent offshore wind energy industry suffered a major blow late Thursday when one of the two companies planning to install wind turbines off the coast of Ocean City announced that it was “repositioning” its plans, pulling out of its agreement with the state and seeking alternative financial arrangements to keep the project going.
Ørsted, the world’s largest developer of offshore wind, emphasized that it was still committed to building its project in federal waters, but said it was opting out of the agreement it had reached with the Maryland Public Service Commission for financial clean energy credits intended to help fund the development. The company said that while it would still seek permits for the proposed wind farm from the federal government, and would continue to develop construction and operations plans for Maryland, the current financial realties of the offshore wind industry made it impossible to continue under the present arrangement.
Through two separate but adjacent leases known as Skipjack 1 and Skipjack 2 that had won state approval, Ørsted is ticketed to provide 966 megawatts of wind energy beginning later this decade. A company executive said Ørsted was determined to work with state officials, potential investors and other stakeholders in an effort to find a better way to finance and save the project.
“Today’s announcement affirms our commitment to developing value creating projects and represents an opportunity to reposition Skipjack Wind, located in a strategically valuable federal lease area and with a state that is highly supportive of offshore wind, for future offtake opportunities,” said David Hardy, group executive vice president and CEO Americas at Ørsted. “As we explore the best path forward for Skipjack Wind, we anticipate several opportunities and will evaluate each as it becomes available. We will continue to advance Skipjack Wind’s development milestones, including its Construction and Operations Plan.”
By saying the Danish company was exploring “future offtake opportunities,” Hardy was signaling that Ørsted will be looking for new funding streams, new investors, new government programs that could potentially generate additional capital, a new rate scheme for electricity consumers — or some combination.
But it isn’t quite clear where the discussions in Maryland will go from here.
By Josh Kurtz