Maryland was among the first-movers in the offshore wind industry in the US but needs to act boldly or it will fall behind other east coast states, legislators have been told.
In testimony this week before the Senate Finance Committee and House Economic Matters Committee of the Maryland General Assembly, US Wind country manager Salvo Vitale urged House and Senate committee members to support HB 1158 and its Senate companion, SB 516 – The Clean Jobs Act of 2019. He cited the significant economic benefits the legislation would make possible by incentivising the development of 1.2 GW of additional offshore wind energy off the coast of Maryland.
“This transformational legislation would serve to reassert Maryland’s leadership position in the fast-developing offshore wind energy sector in the US, creating an additional 5,000-7,000 direct jobs; an additional US$18M to be deposited in the Offshore Wind Business Development Fund; approximately US$5Bn in new capital expenditure; and would further reduce carbon emissions,” he said.
“With only 358 MW currently available for development in the state and no further incentive to develop more, Maryland risks ceding its leadership position as other states along the eastern seaboard move aggressively to increase the proportion that offshore wind energy accounts for in their own state renewable energy goals.”
A range of economic incentives have recently been made available to offshore wind developers in New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey, along with other states.
Mr Vitale cited the number of supply chain companies seeking to locate new facilities along the east coast to meet the needs of a burgeoning energy sector. “Without question, the primary driver for these supply companies is the offshore wind development capacity, and it all comes down to the question of how many mega- or gigawatts can they rely on. Right now, the answer is clear, and Maryland is falling behind,” said Mr Vitale.
Mr Vitale further noted that Maryland was the forerunner in offshore wind development with the passage of the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013. US Wind was successful in securing the federal lease to develop 1.0 GW of offshore wind energy through a competitive bid process.
In May 2017, US Wind’s project was approved to receive offshore renewable energy credits for an initial phase, involving placing approximately 32 wind turbines in federal waters off the coast of Maryland (as far east in its federally-designated wind energy area as possible). The MarWin project, as it is known, will generate approximately 270 MW. During the construction phase, approximately 1,298 direct jobs will be created, generating over US$370M in economic development activity in Baltimore City and Baltimore County alone.
During the operation and maintenance phase, expected to last 20 to 25 years, it is estimated that US Wind’s project will result in US$850M worth of in-state economic impact, and create 4,116 full-time equivalent jobs.
Mr Vitale concluded, “The time has come for Maryland to act boldly again. We can still capture large sectors of the offshore wind industry. Hopefully, Maryland will once again take the lead.”
In May 2018, an amendment to legislation was passed that requested the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) study the effects of offshore wind projects on wildlife offshore Maryland.
Congressman Andy Harris authored, and the committee passed, an amendment ordering NOAA “to study the effects of offshore wind projects on marine mammals and fish, as well as the need for any mitigation measures.”
Congressman Harris released the following statement after the mark-up. “Commercial fishing and seafood processing are prominent industries in Maryland’s First District. The fishing community has expressed concern that US Wind’s proposed offshore windfarm project will harm their fishing operations off the coast of Ocean City. My amendment orders NOAA to study the effects of offshore windfarm construction and operation on marine wildlife as well as the need for any mitigation measures.
“In addition to the several concerns already voiced by the local communities, the US Coast Guard and the National Park Service, it is imperative that we fully understand the negative effects on our fisheries that will be caused by this windfarm project.”
As highlighted above, US Wind has offshore wind leases in Maryland, and also holds a lease in New Jersey.