A bill to subsidize development of an offshore wind farm won overwhelming approval last Friday in the Maryland House of Delegates. It now heads to the Maryland Senate.
While the use of wind power in the U.S. has expanded rapidly over the past few years, and now makes up about 3% of all electric power, this would be the nation’s first offshore Atlantic wind farm, situated near Ocean City.
This is one of Governor Martin O’Malley’s signature initiatives – the passage of a same-sex marriage bill, which O’Malley signed into law on March 1, was another one.
The plan would add a fee to every Marylander’s monthly electric bill for 20 years and thousands of dollars to the bills of the state’s largest businesses to construct a multibillion-dollar offshore wind farm. Governor O’Malley, a Democrat, has argued that the plan would create about 2,000 jobs and boost Maryland’s opportunities in a new green-energy market.
After a similar bill failed last year, the Governor came back this year with a bill that would cap the average monthly cost to residents at $2. But in negotiations with lawmakers, the administration agreed to lower the monthly subsidy charged to residential customers to $1.50. The fee on large commercial and industrial users was lowered by 40 percent, to 1.5 percent of their electrical bill.
However, none of these fees would start until at least 2017, the earliest date the administration expects an offshore wind farm would be in operation.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone thought this was such a good idea.
From The Washington Post:
Republicans, who blasted the bill as politically motivated, said it would still place too much of a burden on ratepayers and add to an array of tax and fee hikes O’Malley has proposed this session.
Del. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery), who was unconvinced last year but threw his support behind this year’s bill, said ratepayers would not see any fee increase “until the offshore wind facility is built, operating and producing electricity.”
“If those turbines collapse into the sea, it will not cost the ratepayers a nickel,” he said.
Administration officials said they believed the smaller subsidy could support a wind farm of about 40 turbines that would produce 200 megawatts annually. That would be less than half of what O’Malley sought when he first introduced the idea before the 2011 legislative session.
Let’s hope the Maryland Senate also approves O’Malley’s proposal, so that this exciting project can become a reality, adding to the numerous other offshore wind farms around the globe in such diverse locations as Scotland and Japan.
Photo Credit: www.windturbines.net