Maryland waters could be home to some of the nation's first — and by far its largest — offshore wind farms under a decision issued Thursday by the state Public Service Commission to approve two projects.
Officials had only been expected to choose one of the vying proposals, but surprised wind developers by giving both the green light, saying they would "position Maryland as a national leader in offshore wind energy."
"I believe this decision creates tremendous opportunities for Maryland," commissioner Michael T. Richard said in a statement. "It enables us to meet our clean, renewable energy goals using energy generated within the state while conditioning our approval on holding project developers to their promises of creating jobs and spurring economic growth."
The decision could dot the Ocean City horizon with wind turbines as soon as 2020 — and add $1 to monthly residential electricity bills.
It is also expected to prevent emissions of hundreds of thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide and create some 5,000 jobs and $74 million in state tax revenue.
The two companies have until May 25 to accept a set of conditions, requiring certain levels of job creation and investment, that the commission laid out in its decision.
Maryland takes next step toward offshore wind
U.S. Wind, a subsidiary of Italian energy and construction company Toto Holdings SpA, plans to build 62 turbines about 14 miles off the coast of Ocean City, a $1.4 billion project. It also plans to build $100 million worth of industrial and manufacturing facilities associated with the project in the Sparrows Point area of Baltimore County.
"The decision is in and now we're ready to get to work," Paul Rich, director of project development for U.S. Wind, said in a statement. "Maryland is now the undisputed national leader for offshore wind."
Skipjack Offshore Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind Holdings LLC, is planning a $720 million project including 15 turbines at least 20 miles off the coast.
Skipjack is behind the United States' only offshore wind project constructed to date, the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island. It is also planning projects off the coasts of Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.
The project developers are required to build the turbines as far from shore as possible — up to 17 miles for the U.S. Wind farm and 24 miles for the Skipjack turbines.
U.S. Wind officials have said that on a clear day, their turbines would appear to a person on the beach as about the size of a thumbnail at arms length.