Reducing scope of wind power projects on Md. coast is disappointing

July 20, 2011

I was deeply disappointed to read of the Department of the Interior's decision to vastly reduce the area for prospective wind power projects off Maryland's coasts ("U.S. OKs wind power area off Md., cuts possible size by more than half," July 12). If we harness the full potential of offshore wind power, it could provide two-thirds of our state's electricity needs, according to a 2010 study by the Abell Foundation.

Although the decision will allow enough space for the moderately-sized wind project that Gov. Martin O'Malley is pushing, our need for clean, renewable energy in Maryland will require us to go beyond Mr. O'Malley's initial wind project and cultivate larger projects. Maryland's Renewable Energy Portfolio standard law requires that the state meet 20 percent of its energy needs using renewable sources by 2022 and according to the Maryland Energy Administration, offshore wind offers the greatest means to reach this end.

Moreover, drastically cutting the area available for Maryland offshore wind development would mean a decrease in the number of jobs coming out of offshore wind projects. The proposed 500-megawatt project would create 2,000 manufacturing and construction jobs and 400 ongoing long-term jobs. Additional and larger wind projects would generate more jobs.

In addressing concerns about marine life, a 2010 study by the Stockholm University Zoology Department established that offshore wind projects don't cause harm to marine life but instead provide artificial habitats. Migratory birds are also not significantly impacted by wind projects, according to European studies.

In closing, I strongly urge the federal government to reassess their decision, and look for other ways to expand the leasing area.

Jess Boltz

The writer is a Chesapeake Climate Action Network grassroots fellow.

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