As lawmakers prepared to pass Gov. Martin O’Malley’s offshore wind power legislation out of the Maryland House of Delegates, an environmental group stood in front of the state house with minority and business leaders to hail offshore wind’s benefits for Maryland. The group, Environment Maryland, released a new report, “What Offshore Wind Means for Maryland: Environmental, Economic and Public Health Benefits Across the State,” detailing regional benefits throughout Maryland of clean energy and reduced global warming pollution.
“We’re incredibly lucky to be right next to a clean energy resource as vast and powerful as the wind blowing every day off our Atlantic coast. That wind could eventually power more than a million homes in Maryland. If we’re going to have any realistic shot at shifting to clean energy and slashing global warming pollution in Maryland, we simply have to plug in to offshore wind,” said Tommy Landers, director of Environment Maryland.
“The great diversity of Maryland’s geography, industries and ecosystems means a clean energy resource as plentiful as offshore wind would have critical benefits in every region of the state. From preserving the beauty of forests and the health of marine life in Garrett County, to preserving agricultural productivity in St. Mary’s County, to helping cleanse the air children in Baltimore City breathe every day, offshore wind power will be critical to preserving Maryland’s environmental, economic and public health for years to come,” added Landers.
Retired United States Marine Corps Major General Anthony Jackson joined the other speakers to highlight another of offshore wind power’s many benefits for Maryland: increased energy independence.
“For the sake of our national security today and for the sake of future generations of Americans, we must make the investments in clean energy sources that will curb our dependence on foreign fossil fuels and make America energy independent. The winds off the coast of Maryland are an untapped and infinite resource that this country needs. Maryland has the opportunity to take the lead in developing this natural gift,” said Major General Jackson.
Delegate Tom Hucker of Montgomery County, a lead sponsor of the legislation, also addressed the need to act quickly to bring offshore wind power to Maryland.
“The Maryland House of Delegates is on the verge of making our state a national leader in offshore wind power. Offshore wind means healthier Maryland families, good jobs for companies across the state, a cleaner Chesapeake Bay and less pollution in the air. Let’s not get lapped by other states up and down the coast. It’s time for Maryland to press ahead with this amazingly abundant clean energy resource just off our shores. I hope the Senate will take our cue and quickly pass this critical legislation,” said Del. Hucker.
According to the new report, developing Maryland’s offshore wind resource would bring benefits to all regions of the state, as soon as a wind farm is built and for years to come. Below are some of the benefits that various regions of Maryland could achieve from the development of wind power off Maryland’s Atlantic Coast.
- Employment could increase on the Eastern Shore. Already, AC Wind is preparing to open a blade-manufacturing plant in Salisbury that will employ 200 people. In the longer term, the low-lying Eastern Shore could benefit from offshore wind’s contribution to curbing global warming and slowing sea level rise. Sea level is expected to rise by more than a foot in Maryland by 2050 and potentially by 3.4 feet by the end of the century, which could submerge hundreds of square miles of land.
- Offshore wind, together with other measures to cut global warming pollution, can help to maintain the agricultural productivity of Southern Maryland by limiting temperature increases and changes in precipitation patterns due to global warming. By 2050, a projected 2 to 3° F increase in temperature could cause corn and wheat yields to decline by 8 to 14 percent. A drop in agricultural productivity could undermine the economic viability of farms in the region.
- Producing electricity from wind turbines in Maryland and elsewhere could help avoid the hotter and more prolonged heat waves that will hit residents of urban areas in Central Maryland especially hard. Reducing global warming pollution with offshore wind could help avoid some of the 90 additional heat-related deaths projected in Maryland annually by mid-century.
- The entire ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay will benefit as offshore wind’s clean power helps to reduce global warming pollution, stabilizing water temperatures that determine whether rockfish, oysters and crabs can survive in the bay. If emissions rise unabated, by 2100 the bay will be as warm as the ocean off South Florida. With a slower emissions increase, the temperature rise will be more moderate, making the temperature of the bay more like the temperature of the ocean off the Carolinas.
- Electricity from offshore wind produces no solid waste that must be disposed of, unlike electricity from coal burning. For the Capital Region, this means that the Westland and Brandywine coal ash dumps could receive less toxic waste from coal plants, lowering the risk of groundwater contamination. Obtaining emissions-free electricity from offshore wind is also one of the key steps Maryland must take to reduce the future severity of heavy precipitation events that can cause flooding across the region.
- Emissions-free offshore wind will help to preserve the current mix of trees that make up the forests in the mountains of Western Maryland. Limiting temperature increases due to global warming will help to maintain the maples, beeches and birches that cover three-quarters of the region. In addition, clean electricity from wind power can replace electricity from dirty, coal-fired power plants and will hasten the day when fish caught in the region’s lakes are free of mercury and are safe for human consumption.
“Gov. O’Malley has shown great leadership in recognizing the multiple benefits of offshore wind power and making it a priority for Maryland lawmakers. The House of Delegates is moving forward, and we urge the Maryland Senate to quickly take action to put Maryland on the path to a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous energy future for every Marylander,” concluded Landers.