Maryland To Boost Offshore Wind Power Development

Governor Martin O’Malley has introduced the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2011, which will boost offshore wind farm development to generate much needed clean, renewable energy, create new ‘green’ jobs, and promote long-term price stability.

The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act will require that public utilities leverage Maryland’s outstanding offshore wind resources by entering into long-term purchase agreements with wind farm facilities off of the Mid-Atlantic coast.

Harnessing the potential of offshore wind power is essential to ensuring that Maryland meets its Renewable Portfolio Standard goal of generating 20% of its energy from renewable resources by 2022.

“Thanks to the tough choices we’ve made over the last four years, Maryland has emerged as one of the leaders in the effort to harness the power of offshore wind – an industry with the potential to create thousands of jobs and power hundreds of thousands of homes,” said Governor O’Malley. “By requiring the utilities to enter into long-term agreements, we can finally shift our focus from short term profit to our state’s long-term energy security.”

An analysis conducted by the US Department of Energy estimates that offshore wind will create approximately 20.7 direct jobs per annual megawatt, including jobs in manufacturing, engineering, and skilled labor.

A 500MW wind generation facility in the waters off of the Delmarva coast could generate as many as 2,000 manufacturing and construction jobs during the five-year development period, with an additional 400 permanent jobs once the turbines are spinning.

The bill, which will be submitted today before the General Assembly as HB 1054, seeks to diversify the terms by which energy is purchased in Maryland by requiring long-term power-purchase agreements with offshore wind generation facilities, which would be located more than 10 miles from Maryland’s Atlantic coast.

These purchase agreements allow Maryland to lock-in rates over the long-term, providing price stability and predictability in what is otherwise a potentially volatile commodity market.

The bill would require that public utilities purchase between 400-600 megawatts (MW) of power from offshore wind generation facilities in federal waters off Maryland’s coastline for a period of twenty or more years.

Five hundred MW of offshore wind energy is enough to power more than half of the homes in the City of Baltimore, or 79% of the homes on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

For residential ratepayers, the Public Service Commission currently directs the utilities to procure approximately 25% of their power at a time, in two year contracts, making ratepayers vulnerable to periodic increases in the market price of energy, particularly traditional electricity based on fossil fuel resources.

Due to its ideal location in the Mid-Atlantic, as well as the deep-water port and manufacturing infrastructure in Baltimore, Maryland is well positioned to be a leader not only in offshore wind energy generation, but also in ongoing construction and maintenance.

“Offshore wind power is our best, most promising renewable energy resource,” said Malcolm Woolf, Director of the Maryland Energy Administration. “If we act now we can ensure long-term price stability, create jobs, and generate much needed clean energy to power the next generation of Maryland innovation.”