Governor Taking Another Shot At Offshore Wind

OCEAN CITY — Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley this week introduced a renewed effort to develop an offshore wind farm off the coast of Ocean City with a decidedly softer potential impact on the ratepayers.

The intent of the legislation is to harness an untapped renewable energy source that could move Maryland closer to its long-term goal of diversifying its energy portfolio.

In 2008, the General Assembly doubled the state’s renewable portfolio standard, requiring electricity suppliers to purchase 20 percent of the electric they sell from renewable sources by 2022. As a result, wind energy was identified as an obvious source to meet those goals, but the approval process has met several obstacles.

O’Malley’s latest attempt would set up a market-driven process including incentives for the construction of 100 wind turbines off the coast capable of producing the equivalent of 71 percent of the shore’s current demand. The proposed wind farm would provide an estimated 450 megawatts of clean, renewable energy, while creating 1,800 construction jobs and another 360 ongoing maintenance jobs.

This marks O’Malley’s second attempt at gaining approval for an offshore wind farm off the coast after an unsuccessful effort last year, pointing out the potential benefits outweigh the fiscal challenges.

“Offshore win has the potential to be a big win for our state,” he said. “A win for jobs, a win for consumers, a win for business and a win for our energy future, an energy future which is cleaner, greener, more sustainable and more affordable.”

It remains to be seen if the governor’s new offshore wind legislation will gain the needed support in the General Assembly.

Sen. Jim Mathias (D-38), who represents Ocean City and the Lower Shore, said this week he is certainly open to the discussion.

“I’m going to take a look at it,” he said. “Philosophically, I strongly support the prospects of this and I believe in expanding our renewable energy sources, but I have to take a close look at the financial side of the equation.”

Meanwhile, environmental groups are already embracing the latest plan.

“This forward-thinking legislation will help protect our air, water and public health for years to come as it creates thousands of jobs and helps revive Maryland’s economy,” said Josh Tulkin, director of the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club. “Marylanders support offshore wind energy and this is the year for Maryland to get ahead of the curve and move forward with clean, local offshore wind power.”