Maryland lawmakers and regulators should provide certainty for developers of offshore wind farms by ensuring that the power they produce will find a market in the state, according to a new report co-authored by the Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center and the United Steelworkers.
"Maryland is blessed with a tremendous offshore wind resource that can meet a significant share of the state's electricity needs," the report said. To encourage its development, Maryland officials and the federal government should "set bold goals for offshore development in the Atlantic, in order to provide clear leadership and vision regarding the important role of offshore wind in America's energy future and to demonstrate that it is a high priority," according to the report.
The groups released the report, "Catching the Wind: Harnessing the Potential of Offshore Wind Power to Clean Our Air and Create Jobs in Maryland," as the Maryland General Assembly is considering legislation that would require the state's utilities to sign long-term contracts to buy electricity from wind farms off the coast of Maryland. Proponents of the legislation argue that the price premium in the short term for offshore wind power is a worthwhile investment in job creation, pollution reduction and long-term stabilization of electricity rates.
"Offshore wind turbines represent homegrown power, local jobs and pollution reduction all rolled into one," Environment Maryland State Director Brad Heavner said in a March 11 statement. "The clean energy economy should start right here, right now." Environment Maryland is a nonprofit environmental research group. The United Steelworkers is the largest union in Maryland's manufacturing sector.
In terms of federal policy, the U.S. Department of the Interior should improve and streamline current siting regulations for offshore wind projects in federal waters, while maintaining a high level of environmental protection, according to the report. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu in February announced a major push for offshore wind energy development, including up to $50.5 million in funding opportunities.
The report recommended that the Maryland Public Service Commission solicit proposals for a wind farm to be built off the state's coast. The PSC should then direct utilities to sign long-term power supply contracts with the wind developer that has the best proposal.