O’Malley this week told a legislative committee that an offshore wind bill would create clean energy and jobs in the state, while limiting rate increases to at most $1.50 per month for the average household, and not until the turbines are actually spinning.
The bill is intended to spur the construction of 200 megawatts of offshore wind power by requiring utilities to buy the power. O’Malley has tried twice before to get offshore wind through the legislature, and the thinking in Annapolis is that this scaled-down version – in 2011 he was aiming for up to 600 MW – has a good chance of becoming law.
Land-based wind power has flourished in the U.S., with 60 gigawatts of capacity online by the end of 2012, second only to China, but the country has yet to get a turbine installed at sea.
Although more costly to develop, many analysts believe offshore has better long-term potential than land-based wind, offering superior wind resources and fewer conflicts. The United Kingdom has been leading the charge offshore; it brought 854 MW of offshore wind capacity online in 2012, driving its total to 2,093 MW. No other country has yet to reach 1,000 MW.
In his testimony before the Maryland Senate Finance Committee, O’Malley said Maryland had the opportunity to get a jump on other states that are nudging toward offshore wind, if it moved fast.
“We can … create jobs by harnessing off-shore wind, but we have to act,” O’Malley said in his prepared remarks. “Now is the best time, and our proximity to both our nation’s capital and the mid-Atlantic coast give us a unique competitive advantage … a unique opportunity to be a leaders in the creation of new jobs and the development of new renewable energy.
Offshore wind in Maryland has the support of many environmentalists who see it as part of a clean energy future, as well as labor groups and businesses who like the jobs angle. In a piece republished on EarthTechling, the Sierra Club recently argued that offshore wind could be a boon to the Northeast:
Offshore wind development off the Atlantic coast could create between 133,000 and 212,000 jobs annually in the U.S. – that’s more than three times as many jobs as new offshore oil and natural gas drilling. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, if Atlantic states developed just 54 gigawatts of the more than 1,283 gigawatts of Atlantic Ocean offshore wind potential, they would create $200 billion in new economic activity and more than 43,000 permanent, high-paying jobs.
On the flip side, the Maryland Retailers Association has come out against the bill, saying it would hurt businesses and destroy jobs by raising energy costs.