Offshore wind energy presents a tremendous environmental and economic opportunity for Maryland.
Environmentally, Maryland’s vast offshore wind resource can reduce our dependence on coal-fired power plants, curb global warming pollution, and help the state meet its renewable energy requirements. Economically, offshore wind development can stabilize electricity prices and has the potential to create thousands of jobs in dozens of fields – helping to sustain existing Maryland firms and encouraging the creation of brand-new industries.
Maryland already has more than 150 businesses – employing more than 7,000 workers – that can participate in the manufacturing of components for offshore wind parks. Another 980 businesses – employing more than 20,000 workers – have the potential to play supporting roles in the construction of offshore wind parks. A commitment to offshore wind development could also result in new businesses setting up shop in Maryland in fields ranging from science and engineering to construction and manufacturing.
To reap the benefits of offshore wind, Maryland should provide certainty for developers of offshore wind parks by ensuring that the power they produce will find a market in the state.
Maryland’s dependence on fossil fuels threatens our environment. Electric power plants produce 38 percent of Maryland’s emissions of carbon dioxide – the leading global warming pollutant. Power plants are also a major source of nitrogen oxides, a key component of smog, and sulfur dioxide, which forms fine particles in the air, contributing to lung disease and heart attacks.
Maryland is blessed with a tremendous offshore wind resource that can meet a significant share of the state’s electricity needs. The wind energy potential in shallow-water areas off Maryland’s coast is capable of producing the equivalent of two-thirds of the amount of electricity we use. Maryland has even greater potential to generate wind power in deeper offshore waters and can benefit from offshore wind development in the waters of neighboring states.
Offshore wind energy requires hundreds of workers in dozens of fields and creates a wide variety of economic opportunities for Maryland.
- Wind turbines represent about half the cost of an offshore wind park. Offshore wind turbines are currently built abroad, but strong and consistent demand for offshore wind power in the Mid-Atlantic could lure turbine manufacturers to the region – as has already occurred with the land-based wind turbine industry in the United States. Maryland already has more than 150 firms, employing at least 7,000 workers, in industries that could participate in the manufacture of components for wind turbines.
- The foundations that hold offshore wind turbines to the seabed require large quantities of steel – which could conceivably be manufactured in Maryland and fabricated locally. Foundations for the Cape Wind development in Massachusetts, for example, will require 50,000 tons of steel plate – believed to be the largest steel plate order in the U.S. in a decade – and will be fabricated by a local firm, creating 100 manufacturing jobs in New England.
- Maryland has the potential to produce the steel for offshore wind foundations locally. The Sparrows Point steel mill, for example, could compete for the large steel orders that would result from offshore wind development.
Cables and electrical infrastructure
- Connecting offshore wind parks to the grid will require the efforts of skilled electrical workers, excavators, marine pilots and other workers. Creating a strong, regional demand for submarine cables could lure international cable manufacturers to set up shop in the Mid-Atlantic region. These manufacturers tend to locate in port cities, where cables can be readily loaded onto ships.
- Recent submarine cable projects in New York Harbor and San Francisco Bay involved the hiring of numerous local subcontractors to build on-shore electrical substations and lay cable.
Shipping and logistics
- The construction of offshore wind turbines requires a large amount of activity on land. The Port of Baltimore operates around the clock, is accessible via a deepwater channel, and has ample open space to store and assemble wind turbine components. It is well equipped to compete for business with other Mid-Atlantic ports, given current methods of transporting and assembling offshore turbines.
- The need to deliver workers and materials to offshore wind park installations will also create business for operators of smaller craft operating out of both the Port of Baltimore and other Maryland ports.
Permitting, legal and environmental work
- Offshore wind development has already begun to create opportunities for white collar workers in fields such as project management, finance, law, engineering and earth sciences
Ongoing operations and maintenance
- Even after construction is complete, skilled maintenance and electrical workers will be required to keep offshore wind parks up and running. The Cape Wind development in Massachusetts, for example, will create approximately 110 permanent jobs in operations and maintenance, which could last for 20 years or more.
Offshore wind development has the potential to create large numbers of new jobs in a variety of industries.
- • The state of Maryland estimates that construction of a 500 MW wind park could create 2,000 manufacturing and construction jobs over a five-year period, along with 400 permanent supply and maintenance jobs. Studies conducted by other Atlantic coast states have identified similar job-creation potential.
Maryland already has many firms and workers capable of participating in offshore wind development.
- According to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and previous studies of the wind industry, there are more than 150 Maryland firms, employing more than 7,000 Maryland workers, that are engaged in industries that could participate in the manufacturing of components for offshore wind parks.
- There are approximately another 980 firms, employing more than 20,000 workers, that are engaged in industries that could provide support for the installation of offshore wind parks.
To encourage the development of offshore wind power – with its strong environmental and economic benefits for Maryland:
- The state and federal governments should set bold goals for offshore wind 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.
- 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.
- The Maryland Public Service Commission should solicit proposals for a wind park to be built off Maryland’s coast. The PSC should then direct utilities to sign long-term power supply contracts with the wind developer with the best proposal.
- The federal government should use its buying power to facilitate the financing of offshore wind. The government should negotiate a long term power purchase agreement with an offshore wind developer covering electricity purchases for military installations and other federal facilities.
Associate Director and Senior Policy Analyst, Frontier Group
Tony Dutzik is associate director and senior policy analyst with Frontier Group. His research and ideas on climate, energy and transportation policy have helped shape public policy debates across the U.S., and have earned coverage in media outlets from the New York Times to National Public Radio. A former journalist, Tony lives and works in Boston.