Maryland Senate passes wind energy bill

Maryland’s Senate approved Gov. Martin O’Malley’s wind energy bill on Friday, setting up the state to become the second to approve an offshore wind farm.

The Democrat-controlled Senate approved the measure 30-15 after repeated failed attempts by Republicans to water down the bill with amendments. It now goes back to the House, which passed it in February, so that chamber can sign off on amendments made by the Senate.

Those amendments include breaks for farmers and industries that use large amounts of electricity.

The bill would require by 2017 that a certain percentage of all energy sold in Maryland come from a wind farm built miles off the coast of Ocean City.

Because wind energy is more expensive to generate, it would raise rates for residential customers by up to $1.50 per month. Rate increases for all other customers would be capped at 1.5 percent of their total electric bill, but farmers and some businesses would be able to stop paying the higher rate after they use a certain amount of energy.