Offshore wind developers talk plans to bring first wind farm to Maryland's coast

Posted at 11:50 AM, Mar 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-07 18:53:38-05

Offshore wind developers discussed plans to bring wind farming to Maryland Tuesday.

The Business Network for Offshore Wind (the Network) sponsored a breakfast to introduce Deepwater Wind and US Wind to industry leaders.

The developers submitted proposals to the Maryland Public Service Commission to build the first offshore wind farm off Maryland's coast.

“Offshore wind power is inevitable. If we want to meet our clean energy goals, if we want to hedge our bets against fossil fuel volatility, if we also want to have the lights come on around the most congested areas where the load centers are (which are our coast) then we have to have offshore wind,” said Liz Burdock, the executive director at Business Network for Offshore Wind.

In Maryland, offshore wind is much more powerful than onshore wind, and in 2013, the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act was passed creating subsidies for offshore wind facilities.

The application process opened last year and this year, the Maryland Public Service Commission will review and potentially approve one of the two projects.

“We've proposed the Skipjack Wind Farm, which is a 120 megawatt project that's located 17 miles off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland. It'll consist of 15 wind turbines and it'll produce enough power for about 35,000 Maryland homes,” said Clint Plummer, the vice-president of development for Deepwater Wind.

Deepwater Wind is the developer of America’s first offshore wind farm launched off Block Island in Rhode Island last December. Also competing for approval is U.S. Wind.

“This is a huge economic development project, which will employ 5,000 or more people over the course of a generation as we not only build our project but build out the Port of Baltimore and Ocean City to support projects up and down the east coast,” said Paul Rich, the project development director for U.S. Wind.

Part of the financing for the projects will come from Marylanders who pay for public utilities. The act made available up to $1.9 billion in financing, but it also put a cap on the monthly charge to consumers.

“The Maryland law establishes a cap of no more than $1.50 per customer per month,” said Plummer.

However, rate payers won't see an increase in their bills until the turbines start spinning and that's not anticipated til around 2022. Proponents of the projects also call it a nominal fee for something that will potentially change the way Americans generate power.

“The opportunity to bring a Silicon Valley of offshore wind is very real and we need to seize this opportunity as Marylanders,” Rich said.

According to officials, The Northeast regional pipeline of offshore wind would create about 75,000 jobs.

The meeting was held at the Maritime Conference Center Maritime Institute.

There will be two public hearings on the proposed projects. The first will be on Saturday, March 25, beginning at noon in the cafeteria of Stephen Decatur Middle School located at 9815 Seahawk Road, Berlin, Maryland 21811. The second hearing will be held on Thursday, March 30, at 6 p.m. in the Joint Committee Hearing Room in the Legislative Services Building located at 90 State Circle, Annapolis, Maryland 21401.

The Public Service Commission is expected to make a decision on May 17, 2017.

The first offshore wind project was installed in Denmark in 1991.

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WMAR Staff contributed to this report.