After two unsuccessful attempts at passing offshore wind energy legislation over the past two years, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is trying again with a new bill, called the Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013.
Although last year's version of the legislation passed the state's House of Delegates, it failed to make it out of the Maryland State Assembly, which claimed the bill would negatively affect ratepayers. That version of the legislation attempted to rectify similar concerns raised about the 2011 iteration of the bill, to no avail.
According to O'Malley, the Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 is similar in all substantive respects to the bill that overwhelmingly passed the House of Delegates last year. However, this time, the legislation has 24 co-sponsors in the State Senate and 58 co-sponsors in the House of Delegates.
The bill, which would operate within Maryland's existing renewable portfolio standard, would create a mechanism to incentivize the development of a 200 MW offshore wind facility and establish a regulatory framework that would allow additional projects to interconnect to the grid in Maryland.
The governor says the legislation would provide the same "strike zone" of ratepayer protections as the bill that enjoyed 88-43 support in the House of Delegates last year. The bill would only allow the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) to approve a proposed offshore wind farm if the PSC were to estimate that the additional ratepayer impact would be below $1.50 per household, or 1.5% for nonresidential customers.
The 2013 legislation also contains a $10 million Offshore Wind Business Development Fund targeted to small and minority businesses to assist them in preparing to participate in this new industry.
Prospective offshore wind developers must demonstrate that any project proposed would result in a net economic benefit to the state by creating jobs, boosting economic development and protecting public health.
Working with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Maryland agencies have helped designate a Maryland wind energy area 10 nautical miles east of Ocean City that is expected to be leased to developers later this year.
Based on a report from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a 200 MW offshore wind project would create almost 850 manufacturing and construction jobs for five years and an additional 160 ongoing supply and operations and maintenance jobs thereafter.