Steve Hershey questioned many factors of Gov. Martin O'Malley's wind energy bill before the bill was passed in the House on Friday.
Posted: Friday, February 22, 2013 2:30 pm | Updated: 7:08 pm, Fri Feb 22, 2013.
By Josh Bollinger Staff Writer
ANNAPOLIS - Gov. Martin O'Malley's Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 passed in the House of Delegates by a 86-48 vote on Friday, much to the chagrin of some Eastern Shore delegation members.
The bill proposes to build an offshore wind energy facility at least 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City.
In the bill's fiscal note, it states most estimates say offshore wind turbines can generate only 38 percent of its maximum power.
Also, the fiscal note states local energy expenditures will increase minimally in fiscal year 2014, but increase significantly in 2018, and the total net cost for the wind project expected to be recovered from taxpayers is $1.73 billion over 20 years.
The fiscal note estimates individual ratepayers might pay up to an extra $1.50 per month on their electric bills to subsidize the project.
Del. Steve Hershey, R-36-Queen Anne's, questioned whether utility ratepayers will ever see a return on their investment in offshore wind.
"We are continuing to fight for the ratepayers. They should not be asked to financially back the governor's, or for that matter, the president's high-risk pet projects," Hershey said.
Another problem in the bill for Hershey is the way building the facility will be carried out.
Basically, a private company will get the chance to build the facility, but will be subject to requirements usually set aside for public works projects that the government has funding in, before the private company sells the electricity back to the grid.
"We appear to be headed down a slippery slope that could lead to any private business regulated by the state being subject to prevailing wage, living wage and Maryland Business Enterprise requirements," Hershey said. "That's a big step this bill crosses over, too."
Hershey said one reason this bill shouldn't be pushed forward is because offshore wind an inefficient form of energy.
Also, offshore wind energy technology hasn't been proven or built in the U.S., Hershey said.
"Do we really need to go forward through with this at this time?" said Hershey, who added it would be better to wait until offshore wind is a proven technology.
Sen. Jim Mathias, D-28-Lower Shore, said he believes now is the right time to go forward with building renewable, offshore wind farms.
Mathias said offshore wind isn't a new issue, as this is the third year variations of this bill have been introduced, nor is pushing offshore wind forward an irrational decision.
He said offshore wind isn't meant to be the sole producer of energy in Maryland, as the state needs other sources of energy to survive, like natural gas facilities.
"If we can add this to our portfolio as we see our population density going forward, it's absolutely the right thing to do," Mathias said.
Plus, offshore wind farms will become more efficient as time progresses, he said.
"You look at solar, what solar was ... and what solar is now. We have some of the largest solar farms in Maryland on the Eastern Shore," Mathias said.
As for the price of this project, Mathias said it's going to take some time to refine, and that once offshore wind energy gets set up and advertised, the price will be predictable.
This is also an environmental issue for Mathias, who said this project will help build Maryland's renewable energy portfolio to better the environment in a time when severe, unseasonable weather events are common.
Once Maryland's offshore wind facility is established, the farms also will be able to be linked elsewhere, like if farms are built off the coast of Delaware of New Jersey, "and string them together to add even more electricity to the grid for the area," Mathias said.
For now, Mathias said it's vital that incentives are made to encourage investment in offshore wind.