Mid-Atlantic Wind Farms Take Step Forward

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) –Maryland gets the environmental all-clear to pursue wind farm development off the coast of Ocean City. Governor O’Malley is making wind power his energy priority this session.

Political reporter Pat Warren has more on a major announcement made Thursday.

Maryland’s energy future may lie in the way the wind blows.

Ocean City’s beachfront property is prime real estate. But it’s the offshore potential catching the eye of energy investors. The way the wind blows across the Atlantic makes it an energy windfall.

“We could produce, if we were smart about it, up to a thousand gigawatts of power off the Atlantic. That’s a lot of power. That’s more than the entire nation’s present electric generating capacity,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

But groups like the Maryland Sportfishermen’s Association worried about hazards to marine life.

“Are they going to drive the fish away? Is it going to destroy the fish habitat in that area?” said an environmentalist.

In Baltimore Thursday, Salazar announced that offshore wind farms have cleared the environmental hurdle, and leases could be issued by the end of the year.

“There is no significant environmental impact from the development of wind energy,” said Salazar.

In his State of the State Address on Wednesday, Gov. O’Malley urged the General Assembly to pass his Offshore Wind Energy Act, which allows utilities to pass on some of the cost of wind power development to their customers.

“I look forward to being able to sign legislation that their committees put forward this session,” O’Malley said.

The green light from the Feds may help that along.

“We need the energy. We have the resources. We need the jobs, and we need a more renewable and cleaner, greener future for our kids,” O’Malley said.

There will be a hearing on O’Malley’s Energy Act on Feb. 14.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management could begin soliciting bids within the next several months.

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