State Initiative A Tiny Step In Right Direction

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Although this is just a fledgling process at this point, it’s exciting to hear the state is officially interested in getting involved in the production of wind energy off Ocean City’s coast.

The Maryland Energy Administration announced Tuesday a new initiative to evaluate the potential for commercial wind turbine development off the state’s coast. The process is getting started with a “Request for Expression of Interest and Information” for energy generation partners.

What this means is the state wants to gather information from prospective companies on building turbines off Ocean City’s coast. It’s willing to look far and wide, including to Europe, to launch a constructive dialogue to develop strategies for moving forward with a long-term offshore wind energy program for Maryland. Consequently, while this information is being gathered, the state will study ways to limit potential environmental impacts associated with building wind turbines in the ocean. It will examine where the turbines should be built, based on shipping routes and environmental concerns.

This is welcome news, and the formal nature of the early stages of this process confirms the state is not merely dangling a line in this industry. It appears to be a solid and legitimate effort to move ahead in a process, which invariably could in 10 to 15 years lead to alternative energy powering state homes and businesses. It’s an exciting prospect.

The “Request For Expressions of Interest and Information” clearly outlines this process, at least in its infancy stages. It partially reads, “This is a Request … from wind energy developers interested in constructing wind energy generation facilities in the Atlantic Ocean areas adjacent to Maryland’s coast. It is not a solicitation or request for proposals that will result in a contractual relationship with the State or commit the State or any of its agencies to enter into a further agreement with any respondent. It should be a considered a request for information that will assist the State and the Maryland Energy Administration to assess the State’s options for off-shore development for its wind resources.”

While this effort is laudable, and could eventually lead to lower energy costs for residents and commercial businesses, it’s worth pointing out the state is trying to meet its own standards of 20 percent of retail sales of electricity in the state must come from renewal sources by 2022. It was suggested this week this initiative might accomplish that mandate. It’s also a wonderful political move for this administration, which wants to be at the forefront of green initiatives.

It’s too early in the game here to talk about specifics, but it’s worth pointing out folks in Ocean City have not welcomed the concept of wind turbines off the coast, at least initially. A previous council said it would not support a private company’s early plans to build wind turbines off the coast if they could be seen from the beach, even if they were simply the size of a thumbnail. Fortunately, that narrow-minded view seems to have been altered, at least privately, over the years, and that’s good news because Ocean City will need to be involved in most phases of this process.

There’s a lot Ocean City needs to be concerned with, particularly on the coastal and local infrastructure front, but we are pleased to see the state throw some muscle behind the wind energy movement. The state’s investment of time and other resources is a needed step in the right direction.

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