January 24, 2012

Wind power bill reintroduced

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By Daniel Menefee
Dan@MarylandReporter.com

Gov. Martin O’Malley reintroduced a wind farm bill Monday night that postpones unpopular surcharges on ratepayers and omits strict mandates to power companies to buy wind power.

Thames Estuary wind turbine

An offshore wind turbine in the Thames Estuary. Photo by phault.

O’Malley said a settlement with Exelon Corporation last year will help fuel development of a wind farm 10-miles off the coast of Ocean City, Md.

“The most important progress that was made on offshore wind has actually already happened,” O’Malley said earlier on Monday. “The $30 million Exelon settlement is investing in the early stage research and development for Maryland’s greatest renewable energy resource, which is Atlantic offshore wind.”

A press release from O’Malley’s website Monday night said the wind farm off Ocean City would produce 450 megawatts of power and provide 1,800 temporary construction jobs and 360 permanent maintenance jobs.

The bill leaves out unpopular provisions from last year’s bill. It postpones a $2 monthly surcharge on ratepayers for the project and kills a mandate that requires power companies to buy 20% of their energy from renewable resources for the next 25 years.

Del. Stephen Hershey, Jr., R-Caroline, said Eastern Shore lawmakers are not likely to support the bill, citing failures in other states to get coastal wind farms built. He said that developers last year were unable to provide the actual cost of the wind farm project.

“The administration changed the bill and came up with the $2 monthly surcharge,” Hershey said. “At the end of the day they couldn’t tell us how much it costs, and we couldn’t support legislation that would put the burden back on the ratepayer.”

Hershey says he’s let O’Malley’s staff know that Eastern Shore lawmakers would consider the proposal, but insisted there would be no support if additional costs are passed to customers.

“We’re going to be against it if it makes the ratepayers have to pay more,” Hershey said.