Eager Maryland Next For Offshore Wind Lease

On the long road to producing energy from wind off the coast, Maryland – where folks are eager to see it happen – took another step forward this week.

Obama administration and state officials announced that 80,000 acres of the Atlantic, capable of being mined for as much as 1,450 megawatts of offshore wind power, would go up for lease auction sometime next year. This would be the third such federal auction of an offshore wind site, following on parcels off Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and off Virginia.

maryland wind lease

image via U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

With Gov. Martin O’Malley pushing hard, Maryland has become one of the most likely places for offshore wind power to develop in the nation in the fairly near future. Earlier this year, after a long fight he signed into law a bill intended to spur the construction of 200 megawatts of offshore wind power by requiring utilities to buy the power.

(New Jersey had been a top candidate for making something happen after it passed legislation in 2010 promoting offshore wind, but the Christie administration has ground progress to a halt, it seems.)

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 beyond a tiny, single-turbine demo project in Maine. The big Cape Wind project off Massachusetts is apparently under construction, but still faces possible financing and legal hurdles.

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.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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