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Published on March 8th, 2013 | by Silvio Marcacci


Maryland Passes Landmark Offshore Wind Legislation

March 8th, 2013 by  

They say the third time’s a charm, and as of Friday, that saying is true for offshore wind in Maryland.

Offshore wind turbines

Offshore wind turbine image via Shutterstock

After failing in the state legislature in 2011 and 2012, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s signature clean energy initiative was finally passed by the state senate, ensuring it will reach his desk to be signed into law.

AB 226, also known as the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013, will create a “carve-out” within the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), mandating a certain percentage of total electricity generated in Maryland is met by offshore wind energy beginning in 2017.

200MW Of Offshore Wind Blowing This Way

The exact percentage of state electricity sales that must be met by offshore wind under the state RPS will be determined annually by state regulators, and will be based on the creation of “offshore wind renewable energy credits” (ORECs).

Roughly 200 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind capacity will likely be built as a direct result of the bill, and Governor O’Malley has previously said 40 turbines will be built about 10 miles off the coastline, creating 850 green jobs.

In previous years, offshore wind legislation was killed by concerns about impacts on consumer utility bills, but the 2013 legislation contained multiple safeguards to reduce that risk.

Multiple Consumer & Price Protections

To start, regulatory approval will only occur if the rate impact does not exceed $1.50 per month for an average residential customer. Statewide polling from 2012 showed two-thirds of voters favored developing offshore wind even if it raised rates by $2 per month.

In addition, the price set in proposed OREC pricing schedule may not exceed $190 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in 2012 dollars and OREC payments may not be made to project developers until electricity supply is generate by the project. ORECs will be sold at competitive prices and credit prices would be allowed to rise and fall with market rates to ensure stable profits.

Gigantic Green Economic Growth? 

Even though the expected offshore wind farm would only be half the size as those proposed in previous years, advocates still hailed the legislation’s potential to jump start Maryland’s clean energy economy.

“This bill is to offshore wind power in the Mid-Atlantic what the early railroads were to American transportation,” said Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “It’s a driver of innovation that will create jobs, enhance our economy, improve public health, and protect the climate.”

Indeed, a recent report estimated US offshore wind’s potential at 300,000 jobs and $200 billion in new economic activity. Mid-Atlantic states seem to sense this opportunity and are clamoring to be first in line to harness offshore wind.

Maryland’s action comes fast on the heels of Massachusetts finally approving Cape Wind’s power purchase agreement with local utility NSTAR, and New Jersey being selected for the first Atlantic Wind Connection offshore transmission project phase.

But while an offshore wind industry is finally coming into sight on America’s horizon, Europe installed more than one offshore wind turbine per working day in 2012 and China plans 5,000MW of new offshore wind capacity by 2015, leading many to ask if the ship has sailed for America to lead in this growing economic opportunity.

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.

  • being second lets you learn lessons from the leader. We may end up with better tower designs, better sitings, better management, higher yields

  • …”leading many to ask if the ship has sailed for America to lead in this growing economic opportunity.”

    Nah. There will always be wonderful offshore winds to exploit- and as the big Turbine makers in Europe, US and Chine drive the costs of 3-7 MW turbine manufacture, transport and installation costs, it should make renewable seem all the better vis a vis cost benefit calculations for the remainder of the windy offshore areas of the US.

    • agelbert

      Well said.

    • Silvio

      Agreed, great comment. My point about “ship sailing” is that America is pretty far behind many other international competitors, and we’ve got a lot of work to do in order to lead in the offshore wind industry.

  • Imagine how much further ahead we would be if the US Government stopped doling out hundreds of billions of dollars to the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries, and instead gave that money to clean, safe, renewable alternative forms of energy.

    And let’s not forget about the multi-trillion dollar oil wars in the Middle East.

    • i don’t like to imagine such things. they depress me. 😛

  • Tyrell Biggs

    This is a nice start but people need to really start pushing for alternative forms of energy. They have no idea in the coming decades just how much of their after tax income is going to be spent on energy. The writing is on the wall, we need to be aggressive with change.

    • Yes, Tyrell we need to be much more aggressive. And while we are way way behind we should be cheering that we are finally taking those first steps ito off-shore wind.

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