As the Maryland General Assembly prepares for its 2012 session, environmental groups are encouraging elected officials to support legislation that could make Maryland the first state to build an offshore wind farm.
The bill, which was first introduced during the 2011 session, aims to create an offshore wind farm 10 nautical miles off the coast of Ocean City and 20 nautical miles off the coast of Assateague Island National Seashore. If approved, the proposal could create 2,000 construction jobs to build the turbines and 400 long-term jobs to maintain them.
"We don’t have any offshore wind farm in the U.S. right now," said Tom Carlson, Maryland campaign director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. "Massachusetts and Delaware are looking and we are kind of in a race with them right now."
Carlson, as well as representatives of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, met with Salisbury University students and community members this week to discuss the upcoming legislative session and bolster constituent support for the bills they hope will make it to the governor’s desk.
Sen. Jim Mathias, D-38-Worcester, co-sponsored the 2011 offshore wind energy bill and said he is likely to do so again. "Philosophically, yes, I’m very inclined to continue to support the bill, but as always the devil is in the details," Mathias said. "It’s really about the money and making it affordable for the industrial groups and the agriculture community."
Mathias said while he is in favor of clean, renewable sources of energy, he is also well aware of the economic factors impacting companies and residents.
How the wind turbines would appear from Ocean City’s beaches and how and where the transmission lines would come ashore to connect to the power grid are other issues Mathias wants to make sure are worked out before a final vote on the legislation is held.
"There are a number of good reasons why this is certainly something we should strive to accomplish, but we have to do it in a financially responsible way," Mathias said.
If the bill were to be approved and fully implemented, a Salisbury factory hopes to broker contracts to build the wind turbines and hire hundreds of employees.
John Congedo, president of AC Wind, said his company has six people training in Ohio and is hoping to hire up to 578 workers if the company can secure contracts to build offshore wind turbines.
The company has not yet brokered any deals, but Congedo said AC Wind is in contact with wind energy companies in Europe, where there are offshore wind farms, and awaiting a vote on offshore wind farms along the East Coast.
"The blades we are going to build in Salisbury could eclipse 100 meters in length," said Congedo, adding he would like to use barges to move the wind turbines on the Wicomico River. "Maryland really has an opportunity to lead the country in this way."
Jennifer Shutt, www.delmarvanow.com