Last month Governor Martin O’Malley and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar together noted that the federal government announced that wind energy projects off the Mid-Atlantic coast would cause “no significant environmental damage.”
According to The Washington Post this finding removes “one of several expected regulatory hurdles to wind farm construction sought by O’Malley and governors in other East Coast states.”
O’Malley explained that the development would aid efforts in Maryland and elsewhere to make offshore wind a reality.
This is a big deal for a number of reasons.
Currently, more than half of Maryland electricity comes from coal-fired plants, as noted by the Marylanders for Offshore Wind Coalition in their recently released video.
Malcolm Woolf of the Maryland Energy Administration explains that “Maryland had some aggressive environmental goals, including a 20 percent renewable portfolio and a 25 percent greenhouse gas reduction goal. Offshore wind is Maryland’s most plentiful renewable energy resource," he said.
"If we tap offshore wind resources…we can achieve those goals. If we turn our back on that resource there is no way we are going to be able to do it using Maryland-based generation.”
No offshore wind farms have been built in the U.S. yet, although a few are in the planning stages. In 2010 Salazar approved the first U.S. offshore wind farm, and it is currently being planned for the waters off of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
O’Malley said wants Maryland to be among the first states to actually move an offshore wind project forward.
“We now know which areas off of Maryland are going to be available for lease in a relatively short period of time,” O’Malley said. The allowable zone is about 11 miles off the coast of Ocean City.
O’Malley and action groups such as the Marylanders for Offshore Wind Coalition want to push Maryland’s General Assembly to approve the plan this year to subsidize development of offshore wind. The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act (SB 237/HB 441) has been set forth before the 2012 General Assembly.
The Marylanders for Offshore Wind Coalition’s video and supporters feature leaders from a variety of fields, including Maryland Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola, describing the health and economic benefits the development of offshore wind off Maryland’s Eastern Shore will have.
So what does this proposed Act mean for Marylanders, and why is Offshore Wind garnering so much attention and support?
There are many reasons, chief among them that the construction of wind turbines off the coast of Maryland will lead to job creation within the state. It should also stabilize energy prices over the long term.
In addition, it will improve health. Dr. Cindy Parker of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility notes that Maryland has the 4th highest child asthma rate in the country, and that “coal-powered plants cause preventable asthma attacks.”
It will stabilize our grocery prices. As explained in the video by by MOMs Organic Market, when a grocery store can lock in stable electricity prices they can keep their food costs for the consumer lower.
It will benefit the environment. One offshore wind farm could cut global warming pollution by more than half a million tons every year.
Ruth Alice White of the Climate Change Initiative of Howard County remarked that “We love [the Offshore Wind Coalition] video because it succinctly tells the story of why Marylanders can benefit from investing in Offshore Wind. We advocate moving toward renewable energy in general, and off fossils fuels which are causing climate change/climate chaos.
"All fossil fuels are very finite resources," she added. "Maryland needs to start developing this industry. The rest of the world is ahead of us here. Europe has been using Offshore Wind for 20 years. China is developing it…if [Maryland is] a U.S. leader, Maryland Offshore Wind businesses could help supply other east coast states.
"This is a win-win for the environment and for Maryland jobs!”
CCIHC is a local organization that educates the public on issues related to climate change and sustainability. They help people understand the urgency of climate change and why developing renewable energy sources like Offshore Wind is so crucial.
The Marylanders for Offshore Wind Coalition members include: National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Interfaith Power & Light, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, League of Women Voters of Maryland, Clean Water Action, Environment Maryland, and the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland.