BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Maryland is riding the tide of offshore wind power with a notice of sale for nearly 80,000 acres for a wind farm off the coast of Ocean City.

Political reporter Pat Warren explains Maryland’s newly passed legislation to build the farm is already ahead of schedule.

This year, Governor O’Malley led a spirited campaign to get Maryland into offshore wind energy.

“Wind is one of Maryland’s two most abundant natural resources; the other one being the sun,” he said.

A poll showed the majority of Marylanders wouldn’t mind paying more on their utility bills to subsidize a wind farm. Now it appears that opportunity is coming sooner than expected.

“And I can tell the offshore wind is blowing on all of us now. I stand here before you watching my own breath,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewel.

Jewel announces the U.S. Department of the Interior will auction 80,000 acres off the coast of Ocean City for commercial wind energy leasing.

“It’s a major milestone for us. It’s a major milestone for Maryland as you work toward a more renewable energy future here,” Jewel said.

A mission this summer mapped water depth, explored the marine habitat, examined underwater geology and looked for potential hazards to construction and the possibility of an ancient shoreline inhabited by Native Americans.

“Because there was a time when our land was further out into the ocean, which means there could be artifacts there. People are sensitive to that,” said Gerard Smith, Shinecock nation.

The exploration reported no pitfalls.

“This is the next step in an important process in which we’ve embarked as Marylanders to create a safer and more secure energy future for our children and grandchildren,” O’Malley said.

The governor’s original timeline estimated six years before utility ratepayers would see increases in their bills to pay for wind power. That’s been moved up to four years.

The energy generated by the wind farm will help power homes on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Maryland’s wind farm, when fully operational, should have the capacity to power 300,000 homes.

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