Strong Majority of Marylanders Support Offshore Wind Energy

A new poll released shows that a strong majority of Marylanders – 62 percent – want to see local offshore wind farm in the state and are willing to pay slightly more on their monthly electricity bills to develop this resource. Policymakers and advocates from the business and environmental communities agree that these are exceptionally strong polling numbers and are a signal that offshore wind turbines is popular across the state.

The well-known Maryland firm Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies conducted the poll. The poll asked respondents whether 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." Sixty two percent of respondents agreed with the statement.

The poll showed that a majority of Eastern Shore/Southern Maryland voters (55%) supported the offshore wind energy statement. Meanwhile, sixty two percent of suburban Baltimore voters showed support. Support was the highest in Baltimore City and the Washington suburbs, where 75% and 67% of those polled supported the offshore wind statement, respectively. Among African-American respondents, support was particularly high, with 75% across the state agreeing that they would be comfortable paying $2 a month more for offshore wind power.

Mike Tidwell, Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which helped to fund the poll, said: "These poll results couldn’t be more clear. Maryland voters want the General Assembly to bring offshore wind power to the state. Marylanders understand that the benefits of offshore wind are more than worth a modest initial investment. Indeed, Maryland consumers are likely to actually save money over time as fossil fuel prices rise."

Meanwhile, a moderate-sized wind farm (500 megawatts) would create about 2,000 manufacturing and construction jobs over five years and 400 long-term operations jobs, according to the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA). The total economic impact of offshore wind turbines for the state could surpass $1.9 billion and generate $14 million in state tax revenues over a five-year development period, according to MEA.

"This poll definitively shows that Marylanders want clean energy now," added Jim Strong, Sub-District Director for the United Steelworkers in Maryland. "Voters totally understand that we can have thousands of new jobs for an ailing economy while deepening our protection of the environment."

During the 2011 Maryland General Assembly session, Governor Martin O’Malley’s "Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act" was not brought up for a vote following debate in both chambers. This autumn, the Maryland House Economic Matters Committee and the Senate Finance Committee are holding several study sessions to examine possible policies to support offshore wind and to weigh the benefits for the state. The governor and clean energy supporters across the state are committed to moving offshore wind development forward in 2012.

"It is an exciting time for offshore wind in Maryland," said Governor O’Malley. "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. I am particularly encouraged by our citizens’ willingness to pay a little bit more for offshore wind power in the short-term, in order to build a more sustainable energy generation system that will bring benefits to our State for generations to come."

The poll was conducted by Gonzales Research and paid for by the five Maryland environmental groups: the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Environment Maryland, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, and the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter.

The poll results were announced in advance of the American Wind Energy Association’s Offshore WINDPOWER 2011 Conference and Exhibition. The conference is being held in Baltimore from October 11-13. Governor O’Malley is a keynote speaker at the conference’s opening session at 3:00pm on Tuesday, October 11.