Officials Support Expedited Call For Wind Farm

OCEAN CITY – A cross section of elected officials, business leaders and environmentalists came together in Ocean City this week in support of an expedited effort to develop offshore wind farms off the coast of the resort.

Environment Maryland, a private sector conservation group, this week released its new report entitled “The Power of Offshore Wind: A Source of Clean, Reliable, Affordable Electricity for Maryland’s Future,” that calls for the development of an offshore wind farm off the coast sooner rather than later. Among other things, the report concludes a wind farm off the coast of Ocean City would reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions and help maintain a reliable electricity system with long-term price stability.

Environment Maryland announced the highlights of the report on the Boardwalk in Ocean City on Tuesday with local and state elected officials, area business leaders and representatives of the community’s environmental sector on hand. The timing of the release of the report came a month after the governors of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia announced a tri-state partnership to explore the possibility of wind power expansion in the mid-Atlantic area, and just two weeks after Maryland officials announced they would seek alternative, renewable energy for about a quarter of the state’s needs for public facilities.

Already, plans are in place to develop an offshore wind farm in neighboring Delaware and the same private company, Bluewater Wind, is in the process of gaining approval for a similar project off the coast of Ocean City. The proposed plan for Maryland includes as many as 200 wind turbines about 12-15 miles off the coast that could generate enough power to supply about 136,000 households with electricity. The turbines would be about 250 feet tall, but would appear to be about the size of one’s thumbnail and as thin as a toothpick from the shore on only the clearest of days.

Delaware’s plan is moving forward and Bluewater Wind is in the midst of a lengthy approval process in Maryland. Environment Maryland’s report released this week calls for an expedited effort in the state, calling for the public-private project to be ready to go as soon as 2014.

“We need to reduce global warming pollution, stabilize electricity prices and help boost our economy,” said Tommy Landers, Policy Advocate for Environment Maryland. “Offshore wind can help us accomplish all of those things. It’s time to start turning Maryland’s bold clean energy vision into reality today.”

Maryland has already committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25-percent by 2020 and an offshore wind farm could help achieve that lofty goal. According to the report, one offshore wind farm with a generation capacity of 600 megawatts could prevent two million metric tons of global warming pollution each year, or about four percent of all of Maryland’s emissions from electricity generation.

Aside from the obvious environmental benefit, the development of an offshore wind farm in Ocean City could have a considerable economic impact in terms of stabilizing energy costs for consumers and, perhaps more importantly, creating jobs in the area, according to Congressman Frank Kratovil (D-Md.), who weighed in on the findings of the report this week.

“This continued research is positive not only for what it means for the environment, but because of what it means for the economy,” said Kratovil. “If we can create, manufacture and install new green energy opportunities like wind here in the United States, we will create a new job market for the 21st century and put people back to work in places like Ocean City.”

Ocean City business community representatives were on hand for the release of the report this week in the resort and several weighed in on the importance of its findings. For example, Macky Stansell, owner of Macky’s Bayside Bar and Grill, urged state officials to move forward with an offshore wind farm project for its environmental and economic benefit.

“Fossil fuels are fouling the environment at a rapid pace, so we need as much clean energy as we can get,” he said. “Besides renewable energy, the economic impact would be huge, in the initial stages of construction and during the maintenance of the turbines. It would add jobs and that’s always a huge plus, especially in this down economy.”

Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones also weighed in on the report and its findings. Jones said soaring energy costs have been a big concern for the association’s members in recent years.

“Over the last decade, our members have been increasingly concerned with the rising costs of energy,” said Jones. “Developing affordable alternative energy sources is a necessary step in confronting the issue.”

Assateague Coastal Trust Executive Director and Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips said an expedited plan to develop an offshore wind farm was essential if only to reduce the state’s dependence on non-renewable, environment-fouling energy sources.

“Every time we turn on a light switch in Ocean City, we are using electricity generated from mountaintop removal coal production that blows off the mountains in the Appalachian range,” said Phillips. “The Milford NRG electric power plant just north of us is powered by coal. It is past time for all of us to ask for cleaner, more sustainable methods of energy generation here in the coastal watershed.”