On Thursday, Maryland’s Public Service Commission (PSC) authorized ratepayer subsidies to support two projects that are expected to tally up to over $2 billion. Together the projects could make Maryland waters home to the country’s first and largest offshore wind farms.
The commission was expected to select only one of two proposals, but to the surprise of many it gave the green light for both. The commission said in its ruling that the two projects together would “position Maryland as a national leader in offshore wind energy.”
By 2020, the Ocean City horizon could become dotted with wind turbines. Once the wind turbines become operational an additional $1 fee will be added to residential electricity bills.
The PSC ruling was the last hurdle to make the projects a reality, but the developers still face a few more steps. Without the subsidies, the renewable energy developers would lack the funding to get their projects off the ground.
The wind farms are projected to generate $74 million in state tax revenue, create an estimated 5,000 jobs and prevent emissions of hundreds of thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide.
The commission has laid out a set of conditions in its decision that require certain investment and levels of job creation.
“If built, these wind farms will be truly pioneering facilities, leading Maryland and the nation toward a 21st century economy that combats climate change and creates jobs in droves at the same time,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
U.S. Wind, a subsidiary of Toto Holdings SpA, is aiming for 62 turbines, which will be built at least 14 miles off the coast of Ocean City and expected to be in operation by 2020.
U.S. Wind also has plans to build manufacturing and industrial facilities connected with the project at or near the Tradepoint Atlantic redevelopment of the former Sparrows Point steel mill in Baltimore County.
A subsidiary of Deepwater Wind Holdings LLC, Skipjack Offshore Wind LLC, plans to build 15 wind turbines at least 20 miles off the coast. The $720 million project is expected to launch in 2022.
A decision by the utility commission limits authority over the wind projects, permitting Skipjack and U.S. Wind to sell renewable energy credits to help cover their costs. Each megawatt hour generated can be sold at $132.
Maryland utility companies are in agreement to purchase a sufficient quantity of credits to ensure the state is able to accomplish its goal of having a quarter of its energy produced by renewable sources by 2020. Ultimately, 2.5 percent of the state’s energy will have to come from offshore wind.