After two consecutive years of failing to pass, the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 is back.  The bill would approve the construction of an offshore wind farm off the coast of the Eastern Shore.

With global warming changes on the environment and the dependence on finite fossil fuels, developing clean renewable energy legislation is taking place at the state level.  The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 is an extension of a similar bill that passed the House of Delegates last year, but died in the State Senate.

“Governor O’Malley has been doing other things to curb Maryland’s energy independence on fossil fuels,” said Betty Anderson, Manager of the Governors Legislative Office.   “However, this particular bill focuses on the development of wind energy and a push to develop an offshore wind farm.”

Wind is a clean source of renewable energy, which means that it would cause no further pollution to the air or water, unlike fossil fuels and oil.  Maryland already has two terrestrial wind farms, which are both in Garret County.

Wind As Energy

“Wind is the movement of air from a high pressure area to a low pressure area.  And the higher up you are the stronger and more consistent wind you will find,” said Jeremy Tasch, Ph.D., a professor of the Department of Geography and Environmental Planning at Towson University.  The wind on the coast is less effected by the friction of the land, which explains why building an offshore wind farm would be the most efficient way to capture the most energy via wind turbines.

The basic principle of a wind turbine is to capture the winds energy. “Imagine a fan, but the fan is working in reverse,” said Tasch. “The shape of the blades causes the air pressure around the wind turbine to be uneven.  The uneven pressure causes the blades to spin around the center of the turbine, where kinetic energy is converted into mechanical energy.”

Pros and Cons of Wind

The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 is an extension of a similar bill that passed the House of Delegates last year, but died in the State Senate.

Supporters of the bill attended a rally at the State House in Annapolis last week.  Among the lively protesters was Charlie Garlow from  Silver Spring, Md.  Garlow had taken the day off from his job at the Environmental Protection Agency to show his support for offshore wind energy.

“I’m a renewable energy advocate and I want to help our world stop global warming,” said Garlow.  “One way to do so is by building and encouraging offshore wind power.”

If approved, Maryland would emerge as a leader in renewable energy and be the first state to build an offshore wind farm.  The targeted project would have 40 wind turbines that stretched over 10 coastal miles along the shore.

During a testimony earlier this month for offshore wind, Governor O’Malley said that “850 jobs during the construction period and 150 permanent jobs” would be created by the implementation of the offshore wind project.

To help subsidize the renewable energy project, the average residential ratepayer would see an increase in utility bills of  $1.50 a month.  Nonresidential customers would an increase in 1.5% of their total annual electric bills.

“Future legislation could require energy suppliers to purchase a certain percentage of their energy from a renewable energy base,” said Charlie Wimburg, Vice President of Delmarva Power.  “Utility contracts are written into a lot of the new legislation for offshore wind farms.”

Opponents of the bill have questioned the true cost behind the wind turbine project.  Additional concerns have been raised about the efficiency of offshore wind farms.

Since there are no offshore wind farms in the United States it is difficult to estimate how much of a states power usage could come from the offshore project.

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