Offshore wind a key component of Md.'s clean energy future

May 12, 2011

I share Alex Pavlak's interest in advancing a clean energy future, yet his recent op-ed ("The problem with wind," May 5) ignores basic facts.

Maryland has an ambitious, actionable plan to reduce our state's dependence on costly fossil fuels by generating 20 percent of our state's energy from renewable sources by 2022. Because of the smart choices we've made over the last five years, we are on pace to meet that goal.

Notwithstanding our significant progress in building solar, land-based wind, geothermal and biomass generation in Maryland, the only way to achieve our renewable goal with in-state generation is to harness our offshore wind resources.

Maryland is blessed with the unique combination of outstanding wind 10 miles off of Ocean City in relatively shallow waters near the electricity strapped Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area. Offshore wind offers a triple-win for Marylanders: creating thousands of new "green" jobs, generating enough clean energy to power more than half of the homes in Baltimore City, and reducing harmful carbon emissions.

The notion that offshore wind causes an increase in coal-related pollution is simply wrong.

Exhaustive study of actual wind activity off of Maryland's Atlantic coast shows that the wind blows the hardest at the times Marylanders use the most power — during the day — so there would be no significant need to "cycle down" coal plants to accommodate nighttime surplus generation.

Secondly, comparing wind turbines built onshore, where the wind blows far less consistently, to those built offshore is like comparing apples to oranges.

Lastly, energy generated off of Maryland's Atlantic coast would be balanced within the regional grid which, with more than 51 million customers, is the nation's largest regional transmission organization. Because it deals with such a high volume of energy, the grid will be able to easily accommodate the power generated off of Maryland's coast without needing to cycle existing coal plants.

As we move into this next decade, we'll need to work together to make smart choices to secure our energy future. The potential of offshore wind, its costs and benefits, are incredibly important factors to consider.

We welcome open, honest debate on this issue. Anyone interested in being a part of that discussion is invited to join Gov. Martin O'Malley at the Governor's Energy Summit this Friday at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium. You can find out more at

Malcolm Woolf, Annapolis

The writer is director of the Maryland Energy Administration.

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