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Maryland Moves on Offshore Wind

Jeff Siegel | Wednesday February 16th, 2011 | 2 Comments

Every year, thousands of high school graduates in the state of Maryland race to Ocean City after graduation day. They call it Beach Week, and it’s been a tradition for decades.

When I graduated from high school, I didn’t go.

To be honest, I was never really a fan of Ocean City, so I flew to San Diego after graduation, then drove down to Mexico with a friend of mine.

I have no doubt my week-long adventure through the Baja Peninsula trumped anything I could’ve experienced in Ocean City…

But a lot has changed since then.

My days of tequila-soaked debauchery and Hunter S. Thompson illusions are over, and I actually want to go Ocean City these days.

But not to wander the boardwalk or watch the seagulls feast on junk food leftovers deposited by gaggles of gluttonous beach-goers and drunken teenagers…

No, I want to go to Ocean City because that’s going to be the site of Maryland’s first offshore wind development. And I want to watch the whole thing unfold.

Did somebody say jobs?

If Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is successful, his state may soon become home to a massive offshore wind farm — one that could end up generating up to 600 megawatts, or enough to power nearly 100,000 homes.

This would satisfy between 10% and 15% of Maryland’s renewable portfolio standard of 20 percent clean energy by 2022.

Under his newly proposed Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act, the state’s four utilities will be required to sign fixed-price contracts of at least 20 years with offshore wind developers.

It is expected the wind farm will cost Maryland ratepayers an additional $1.60 a month.

Certainly some are firing off about the increase. Maryland Senate Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs had asked, “What happened to competition?”

Ironically, Jacobs represents a Maryland county that’s home to the Conowingo Hydroelectric Power Plant and the Perryman Power Plant — the latter operating four oil-fired combustion turbines. Both of these power plants have long operated with the assistance of very generous government support.

Regardless, I don’t imagine it’ll take long for Jacobs or any other potential opponent to come around. Because at the end of the day, this offshore wind deal will be a huge job creator.

Based on DOE estimates, the development of Maryland’s offshore wind resources could generate 2,000 construction jobs over five years and 400 long-term jobs in turbine maintenance.

And rest assured, the lure of fat contracts has got some mighty big players sniffing around offshore possibilities in Maryland… and up and down the East Coast.

Staking an early claim

Just last week, Gamesa (PK: GCTAF) and Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) launched the Offshore Wind Technology Center in Chesapeake, Virginia.

If you’re not familiar, Gamesa is one of the largest wind turbine suppliers on the planet, boasting more than 20,000 megawatts of installed wind turbines in 30 different countries. The company is aggressive as hell, and is looking to capitalize on new offshore wind development off the East Coast of the United States.

Recently, reps from Northrop Grumman said they were getting into the wind turbine business because this could create a new market for the company’s shipbuilding arm.

And we know for a fact that Gamesa and Northrop are now on track to test two 5 MW wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean in Q4 of 2012. Those will actually be constructed along the Outer Banks.

Essentially, from New Jersey to as far south as North Carolina, the U.S. government and state governments are looking to build an offshore wind corridor that will not only bolster clean, domestic power generation… but help create jobs and generate revenue for local economies.

Here’s what the Department of Interior currently has listed as areas under consideration:

Connecting the dots

Also worth noting is that back in October, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced it would be investing in a new offshore wind power grid that will serve as the transmission backbone for a string of offshore wind farms along the East Coast.

Dubbed the Atlantic Wind Connection, it will be located about 10 miles offshore, stretch 350 miles from New Jersey to Virginia, and connect 6,000 megawatts of capacity — enough to power about 2 million homes.

Google has partnered with Trans-Elect, Good Energies, and Marubeni Corporation to construct the project.


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  • John Costa

    This is thrilling and concerning. I am thrilled because Maryland’s Eastern Shore will have access to alternate sources of electrical power other than coal and gas. At the same time Gamesa seems like a very profit driven business that is pushing wind projects. What are the ramification of such massive projects? Will these projects also address the need to change our behavior and attitudes on electricity consumption?

  • Joe

    I’ll take Gamesa putting up wind farms over Massey blowing off the tops of mountains, any day of the week.