Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New business network mulls Maryland offshore wind

The initiative to establish an offshore wind farm passed the Maryland General Assembly this year after several previous attempts.
WEST OCEAN CITY, MD — A newly formed business network met with Maryland Energy Administration officials recently to explore how local businesses can benefit from a wind farm off the coast of Ocean City.
The meeting last week was one of the ways The Business Network for Maryland Offshore Wind hopes to find manufacturers and companies that want to help build the wind turbines or gadgets needed to maintain them.
Over breakfast sandwiches at the Marlin Club in West Ocean City, officials from the Maryland Energy Administration and Danish nationals explained what businesses and the state will need to do before offshore wind turbines begin producing energy.
“We want to make sure Worcester County has the industry and the business to support the business you are bringing,” said Worcester County Commissioner Bud Church.
Abigail Hopper, director of the Maryland Energy Administration and Gov. Martin O’Maley’s energy adviser, said Maryland hopes to use as many in-state businesses as possible for the project.
“We have done what no other state has done, which is create an actual financeable model,” she said, mentioning various grants and resources available.
The initiative to establish an offshore wind farm passed the Maryland General Assembly this year after several previous attempts. The bill was hailed by O’Malley as a way for the state to increase the amount of renewable, clean energy available in the state.
Because there are no offshore wind farms in American waters, training and educating businesses and workers is a key component of Maryland’s plan.
While the best-case scenario introduces working turbines in 2018, developers are putting multi-million dollar bids together now.
Later this year or early in 2014, the federal government is expected to award sections of the ocean floor to those developers. The decision will be made by the federal government and not Maryland because the wind farm will be in federal waters.
Private companies will then work with local, state and federal governments to install the turbines, run transmission lines to the shore and maintain them.
Ross Tyler, program manger for offshore wind economic development, said maintenance will be a full-time concern for the companies. The safety of those performing maintenance and repairs will also be a focus of state government.
“The marine environment really is a hostile environment,” he said.
A boat is currently surveying the designated area’s ocean floor in order to understand how underwater construction may begin.
As part of the state’s emphasis on including the Lower Shore in the creation of what may be the first offshore wind farm in the United States, nine University of Maryland Eastern Shore students were federally certified to observe marine species.
That cooperation between local, state and federal governments and organizations is what the business network and the Maryland Energy Administration hope will continue through the eventual decommission of the wind turbines.­