Offshore Wind and Onshore Jobs
Making Maryland a Clean Energy LEader
In 2013, CCAN and other climate advocacy partners helped pass the Maryland Offshore Wind Act, opening the door to capitalize on Maryland’s greatest renewable energy resource. In May 2017, Maryland’s Public Service Commission (PSC) approved applications from U.S. Wind and Skipjack Offshore Energy for offshore wind projects in the Atlantic Ocean that will produce a combined 368 megawatts of energy for Maryland residents. The wind farms will be built off of the coast of Ocean City, Maryland and collectively generate enough energy to power over 500,000 homes. Read the May 2017 decision from the PSC here.
With these projects, Maryland could become the East Coast manufacturing hub for this growing industry, putting us at the forefront of clean energy development and reducing our reliance on harmful fossil fuels.
CLEAN ENERGY JOBS ACT IN ACTION
The Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2019 mandated an additional 1,200 MW of offshore wind generation to help meet Maryland’s clean energy goals. Since the passage of CEJA, companies like US Wind and Orsted have proposed additional projects and the Public Service Commission is expected to complete its review and issue a decision for the Round 2 projects by December 18, 2021.
INVESTING IN BALTIMORE AS A MANUFACTURING HUB
Baltimore’s deepwater port and underused industrial areas make the region a prime location for wind turbine manufacturing and assembly.
Maryland’s Public Service Commission required the two wind companies to invest $115 million in manufacturing facilities and port upgrades in and around Sparrows Point, or a similar port facility, and contribute $6 million to an offshore wind business development fund. This economic activity will prioritize small businesses and businesses owned by people of color.
Offshore wind has the potential to create thousands of family-sustaining jobs in Baltimore and across the state. The U.S. Department of Energy has found that jobs associated with the offshore wind industry have average annual earnings (including benefits) of $141,000 for onsite workers.
ACTUAL POLLUTION VS. “VISUAL POLLUTION”
There is widespread support for offshore wind across Maryland. In December 2017, OpinionWorks found that 72% of residents of the Lower Eastern Shore supported US Wind’s project, and between February 11th – 17th, 2020, Bellwether Research conducted interviews statewide among Maryland voters which found that:
- More than seven in ten (72%) voters statewide (and 65% of voters in Worcester County) favor the Skipjack offshore wind farm.
- Beachfront property owners in Ocean City are as supportive (67%) as those who live inland (65%).
- Nearly all (86%) Ocean City vacationers say they would continue to vacation in Ocean City if there were wind turbines off the coast.
- Most voters (67%) think tourism in Ocean City will largely stay the same, while 11% say it will increase.
Despite this broad support, some elected officials in Ocean City have come out in opposition to the wind farms as “visual pollution” that could harm tourism and property values.
This concern, which the Baltimore Sun has referred to as “ludicrous,” is largely unfounded. First, the visual impacts of the wind turbines will be minimal, since they will be built 19+ miles off the coast, appearing to be about the size of your thumbnail held at arm’s length on the horizon as you can see in these visual simulations of various sizes of turbines. Second, 64% of Marylanders polled by Gonzales Research & Media Services said that offshore wind projects would not affect their decision to rent or buy property in Ocean City. And 16% said that offshore wind projects would make them more likely to rent or purchase seaside property.
Furthermore, many people see wind turbines as beautiful symbols of the clean energy future, not “visual pollution.” In May 2018, CCAN worked with a coalition of artists and faith leaders to put on two art shows that highlighted the beauty of wind power. Learn more about the “Wonders of the Wind” art show here.
Now that the Maryland PSC has given the green light on Round 2 projects, the next step is to go through review by the U.S. The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which is responsible for issuing leases, easements and rights-of-way for offshore wind projects. BOEM’s renewable energy program occurs in four distinct phases: (1) planning and analysis, (2) lease issuance, (3) site assessment, and (4) construction and operations.
BOEM has issued leases to both U.S. Wind (Lease #0CS-A 0490) and Skipjack (Lease #OCS-A 0519). Now the companies must conduct site assessments and review the birds, bats, and marine mammals in the lease area, the geography of the lease area, and the archeology of the area. This review is done to ensure that the site is thoroughly assessed and understood so that the projects can be built in an environmentally sound manner.
After the companies fully assess the sites, they must submit a Construction and Operations Plan (COP), which is a detailed plan for the construction and operation of a wind energy project on the lease. Submission of a COP will trigger a final environmental review of the proposal under the National Environmental Policy Act. The public will have a number of opportunities to participate in this environmental review to ensure that this much-needed renewable energy project is built in a way that protects the surrounding environment.
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- Md. Public Service Commission Decision Expand Offshore Wind Development, 12/17/21
- Hundreds Attend Offshore Wind Hearing In Ocean City Maryland Coast Dispatch, 1/20/20
- Ocean City wrong to oppose offshore wind project, Delmarva Now, 1/29/20
- Inside the fight over Maryland offshore wind project, Energywire, 1/24/20
- Huge Crowd Has its Say on Wind Farms off Maryland and Delaware Coast, Now the Wait Begins, WBOC, 1/18/20
- What Md.’s Clean Energy Jobs Act means for offshore wind developers. Baltimore Business Journal. 5/29/19.
- Rodricks: Wind resistance in Ocean City is ludicrous. The Baltimore Sun. 6/12/18.
- Ocean City’s effort to keep windmills far offshore fails as Maryland delegates reject proposal. The Baltimore Sun. 3/12/18.
- Maryland regulators greenlight two major offshore wind projects. The Washington Post. 5/12/17.
- Factsheet: Offshore Wind and Onshore Jobs in Maryland.
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Potential Offshore Wind Developments in Delaware and Maryland
- Blog: How Clean Energy Policy is Bringing Steel Back to Baltimore
This page’s featured image is offshore wind in the United Kingdom (Ashley Cooper/Barcroft Media/Getty Images)