Poll Supports Turbines Off OC

OCEAN CITY — A new poll released last week reveals a strong majority of Marylanders want to see offshore wind power developed off the coast of Ocean City, even if it means paying more on their monthly electric bill to develop the resource.

During the last General Assembly session, Gov. Martin O’Malley introduced his Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2011, a plan that includes the development of a vast offshore wind turbine roughly 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City. Currently, as many as eight private companies are vying to erect as many as 250 wind turbines off Ocean City’s coast, but the proposal is mired in a debate over public investment in a largely private venture.

To that end, the Maryland firm Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies recently conducted a poll across the state asking Marylanders if they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “I would be willing to pay $2 more per month on my electric bill if a greater percentage of my electricity came from clean, local offshore wind farms instead of coming from coal, oil and gas.”

Across the state, 62 percent of those polled agreed with the statement, including 39 percent who said they strongly agreed and 23 percent who said they somewhat agreed. In contrast, of the 34 percent who said they were opposed, 24 percent were strongly opposed.

A look at the breakdown reveals an apparent “as long as it’s not in my backyard” attitude. For example, 75 percent of those polled in Baltimore City agreed with the statement, followed by 67 percent in the Washington, D.C. suburbs and 62 percent in the Baltimore suburbs. On the Eastern Shore, 55 percent of those polled agreed, while 39 percent disagreed. Ironically, in Western Maryland, where mountainside wind turbines already exist, only 45 percent were in favor of offshore wind and 55 supported it.

Nonetheless, policymakers and offshore wind advocates claimed the 62-percent figure for the entire state prove Marylanders are ready to embrace wind farms off the coast of Ocean City even if it cost them more on their electric bill.

“These poll results couldn’t be more clear,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Maryland voters want the General Assembly to bring offshore wind power to the state.”

For his part, O’Malley agreed the poll results represent a mandate.

“It is an exciting time for offshore wind in Maryland,” he said. “Poll results like these further our resolve to pursue new opportunities off our coasts that will create jobs and develop clean energy for our citizens.”