November 8, 2010

Feds approve wind farm off Ocean City

By: Hayley Peterson, Examiner Staff, 8 November 2010

The Obama administration opened Maryland’s coast to offshore wind farms Monday and is seeking bidders to erect more than 300 turbines in a 206-square-mile area off the coast of Ocean City.

The move makes Maryland the second state in the nation, after Delaware, to have reached this stage in off-shore wind development.

The closest turbines to the coast will be roughly 10 nautical miles from Ocean City

and won’t be able to be seen from the beach, according to the U.S. Department of the

Interior. Roughly 300 spinning turbines could power about 30 percent of Maryland’s energy needs, according to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration.

O’Malley has made wind farm development a key initiative over his four years in office as part of his effort to obtain 20 percent of Maryland’s energy needs from renewable sources by 2022. He says the project would employ 4,000 temporary manufacturing and construction jobs, as well as 800 permanent positions.

The governor used these statistics to rally hundreds of members of the

United Steelworkers union

behind him during his campaign for re-election this year.

But the Department of the Interior’s invitation to bidders contains no language mandating in-state hires. The federal agency is directing the competitive bid process because the Outer Continental Shelf, where Maryland’s turbines would be built, are federal waters.

And it will be many years before the turbines are erected.

“In terms of cement in the water, we still have a number of steps left to go through before that happens,” said Ian Hines, spokesman for the Maryland Energy Administration. After the federal government selects bidders, the proposals must undergo a lengthy environmental impact study.

“And somebody’s got to buy this power,” Hines added.

He said the Maryland energy agency is in talks with federal officials and hoping the government will buy its wind power under a long-term agreement.

“We’re really optimistic around Baltimore that Maryland can become a real hub for this [industry],” Hines said, noting Baltimore’s enormous steel mill and convenient port. “We can be an anchor point for this industry.”

O’Malley delivered a similar sentiment: “Today’s announcement marks another step forward for Maryland’s new economy.”

The federal government approved the country’s first offshore wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod in April, but the project has not started looking for developers.

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