December 1, 2021

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Eastern Shore steel company to make components for wind energy turbines

Before announcing the deal, Hogan and other dignitaries toured the Crystal Steel facility, seeing where different phases of component work would take place. Later, two welders symbolically fused the corporate logos of the two companies together onto a steel map of Maryland.

Local officials said that the steel plant, located in one of several industrial parks that are popping up in the mainly agricultural Eastern Shore, are injecting much-needed financial capital into the area and are a major source of job growth.

“You wouldn’t believe all the activity that’s going on over here,” Del. John F. “Johnny” Mautz IV (R-Middle Shore) said in an interview.

State Sen. Adelaide C. Eckardt (R-Middle Shore) referred to several companies in the area as “family,” and welcomed as Ørsted as “our new family.”

In contrast to the Tradepoint Atlantic event at Sparrows Point, an iconic former industrial area along the Baltimore County waterfront, which also included Hogan and other dignitaries, an environmental leader was invited to speak in Federalsburg on Thursday.Kim Coble, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, noted that her organization works to hold elected officials accountable, but said it was fitting that she could offer praise and congratulations for Thursday’s announcement. “We have a lot to celebrate.”

Coble said that in addition to the boost the Ørsted-Crystal Steel agreement gives to Maryland’s clean energy goals, she was also pleased that Ørsted is planning to build the first zero-emissions maintenance facility in West Ocean City and is adding air filtration technologies to the Crystal Steel plant to protect workers.

Both Ørsted and US Wind are awaiting final federal government OK for their projects off Maryland’s coast — though their approval seems almost inevitable, given the Biden administration’s push to exponentially increase the number of clean energy projects being built across the nation. Earlier this week, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the administration aims to offer leases for offshore wind energy development everywhere off the U.S. coast by 2025.

In 2017, US Wind and Ørsted were granted leases from the Maryland Public Service Commission, which is serving as the agent for the federal government, for the first phase of the Interior Department’s lease areas off the coast. Earlier this year, the two companies applied to win the contract for another lease area near Ocean City. The PSC has promised to decide on the bids by mid-December.

Last month, Ørsted filed a complaint with the PSC seeking to disqualify US Wind for the second phase of leasing, questioning the timing of when US Wind would begin utilizing clean energy credits from the state. But last week, the PSC rejected the Ørsted complaint, concluding “it would be inappropriate to grant [Ørsted’s] Motion to Disqualify at this time.”

Nancy Sopko, director of external affairs for US Wind, said an independent consultant for the state has determined that the company’s project off the Ocean City coast was best equipped to protect ratepayers and would cost less than its rival’s.

Both companies hope to have the first phases of their Maryland projects running by the middle of this decade.

State elected officials and business leaders are largely committed to boosting the offshore wind industry in Maryland. Opposition remains in Ocean City, where some political leaders, business owners and real estate agents believe the presence of wind turbines a dozen miles or more from the beach resort could hurt the tourism industry and depress housing values.

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