Library filed under Offshore Wind
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley is convinced he's found the right formula for ensuring that his state becomes the first to site a wind facility off its coastline. Last week Maryland's House quietly approved HB 226. The Senate version (SB 275), although still in Committee, is also expected to pass despite much controversy over cost and risks to captive ratepayers–and back-door cronyism for developers and other special interests.
Fisherman's Energy is awaiting its last state approvals, from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, which has to decide whether the green benefits of offshore wind justify comparatively higher costs that could raise electric rates for consumers.
Gov. Martin O'Malley's Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 passed in the House of Delegates by a 86-48 vote on Friday, much to the chagrin of some Eastern Shore delegation members. The bill proposes to build an offshore wind energy facility at least 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City.
Maryland's bid to become the first state to build an offshore wind farm took a step forward this week when the House of Delegates approved a wind energy infrastructure bill.
The measure sidestepped eight amendments proposed by House Republicans, aiming to restrict the project's cost on the state and taxpayers. Republican Delegate Patrick McDonough of Baltimore and Harford counties noted that the offshore wind bill, if successful, would fail to meet the state's energy needs.
Jeff Zellmer of the Maryland Retailers Association told committee members the measure would cost jobs, not create them. The bill would limit rate increases for residential customers to $1.50 a month and businesses to 1.5 percent. However, Zellmer said supermarkets operate on a 2 percent profit margin and electricity is the second-largest cost for grocery chains.
Backers of offshore development point out that the winds off Maryland's coast are strong, a nearby energy resource that the state should exploit. But if the most efficient way to meet the mandate is to build offshore wind farms, then offshore wind farms will prosper under existing policy. If it's not, then they should not be built.
Offshore wind has been a harder sell. Installing turbines that can withstand harsh maritime environments is more costly than planting them in the middle of a field, said Chris Long, manager of offshore wind and siting policy for AWEA, a Washington-based trade group whose members include General Electric Co. and the U.S. unit of Spain’s Iberdrola SA.
The truth is that the project's benefits to Maine are ambiguous, while the costs to our state are clear and real -- nearly $200 million will need to be subsidized by Maine families and businesses. This is the wrong direction for developing a new industry and antithetical to improving Maine's business climate and reducing the energy bill burdens on Maine families.
The decision did not please Gov. Paul LePage, who blasted it in a release Thursday afternoon. "Today's decision by the PUC and any policy that raises electricity costs is irresponsible. Maine has the 12th-highest energy costs in the country and this vote forces Mainers to pay even higher prices for the next 20 years," LePage said.
Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposal to establish an offshore wind farm might be poised to breeze through the General Assembly this year, but it will be at least five years before any turbines are constructed off the coast of Ocean City.
The Maine Public Utility Commission today approved the terms of a project proposal by Norwegian energy giant Statoil to build a $120 million deepwater wind turbine demonstration project in the Gulf of Maine. Commission members voted 2-1 in favor of the proposal, but placed several conditions on their approval that Statoil must meet.
"[Duke Energy] has been committed to supporting research and study of wind energy generation, and we continue to believe there is good wind off the North Carolina coast, but we also recognize that any development in wind off the coast of the state has to make sense for our customers, the coastal communities and the company as a whole."
One of the remaining two African American lawmakers who had opposed the governor's plan, Sen. Catherine E. Pugh (D-Baltimore) ,helped negotiate $10 million in aid to minority-owned businesses that made the proposal palatable to the NAACP, said Maryland state conference president Gerald Stansbury.
Statoil submitted a proposal last year to the PUC that included the rate of 29 cents per kilowatt hour, roughly double what Maine household customers now pay for energy and delivery. In its new proposal, Statoil trims the rate to 27 cents/kwh. That's still well above market rates and would total $186 million over the life of the 20-year contract.
Governor Martin O'Malley appears to have cleared a hurdle in his quest to put a wind farm off the coast of Ocean City. It's a renewable energy project supporters say will reduce global warming. Political reporter Pat Warren has more on the plan.
"I think wind energy is a good thing but they have to be very careful about ratepayer subsidy," said Stefanie Brand, executive director for the Rate Counsel, essentially the state's watchdog. "Unless we are going to get a greater benefit than it costs us, money wise and environmental benefit, we can't ask ratepayers to subsidize it." Fishermen's Energy, whose website says it will begin construction this year, is still trying to convince the BPU about those benefits.
The bill has yet to be introduced, but his administration announced that it would include a provision for residential customers to be charged no more than $1.50 a month on their electric bills to subsidize the costly process of building a 200 megawatt wind farm off the coast of Ocean City.
The earliest Virginia offshore commercial wind development could occur would likely be 2022, or even five years later than that, energy officials said Thursday. Getting the required permits to build an offshore wind farm could take seven years alone.
RWE AG (RWE) is delaying investments. SIAG Nordseewerke GmbH filed for insolvency. REpower Systems SE is cutting temporary staff. All show how German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 550 billion-euro ($734 billion) plan to replace nuclear reactors with renewable sources is stalling.