Feds Invest In Wind Farm Project

OCEAN CITY — The federal government this week identified a 200-plus mile swath of ocean off the coast of the Ocean City as a priority area for future offshore wind energy and injected over $50 million in funding to help jumpstart some of the projects.

Last week, as expected, Governor Martin O’Malley made the development of offshore wind energy off Maryland’s coast a priority in his annual state-of-the state address. The governor’s plan calls for the development of a 600 megawatt offshore wind project off Maryland’s Atlantic coast within the next decade, a project that could, when up and running, supply electricity to 95 percent of the homes on the shore.

The federal government has identified a 207-nautical-square-mile area off Ocean City’s coast for future leasing for private sector wind energy projects. Already, eight companies have expressed interest in building wind turbines off the resort’s coast. To be sure, there are extensive regulatory, environmental and contractual issues to be resolved before the projected 200-plus turbines start spinning off the resort’s coast, but the project appears to be closer than ever this week after a major announcement by the federal government.

On Monday, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar identified four “Wind Energy Areas” off the mid-Atlantic coast as part of the federal government’s “Smart for the Start” approach to developing offshore wind farm announced late last year. Included in the four highlighted areas is the 207-mile area off the coast of Ocean City. The four areas designated will receive early environmental reviews that will help lessen the time required for review, leasing and approval of offshore wind turbines.

“The mid-Atlantic wind energy areas are a key part of Smart from the Start program for expediting appropriate commercial scale wind energy development in America’s waters,” said Salazar this week. “Through the strategic work plan, the U.S. is synchronizing new research and development initiatives with efficient, forward thinking planning.”

To help jumpstart the development of wind energy off the mid-Atlantic coast, the U.S. this week also announced an injection of over $50 million for projects in the designated mid-Atlantic areas. The $50 million will be available over the next five years for public and private research and development projects related to offshore wind projects in the designated areas including the area off the coast of Ocean City.