Wind bill shakes off GOP amendments -- Gazette.Net


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In its first time on the Senate floor, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s bill to incentivize an offshore wind development survived six amendments lobbed at it by Republican opponents Thursday.

Concerns from opponents ranged from liability for ratepayers should the project fail or go over projected costs to ensuring that as much infrastructure as possible is located in Maryland when the project is built.

The bill would create a process by which the Public Service Commission can evaluate and approve a proposal by a developer to build a 200-megawatt wind farm in an area 10 to 30 miles off the coast of Ocean City. The commission could not approve such a proposal if it predicts increased monthly costs to customers of $1.50 for average households or 1.5 percent of a commercial customer’s monthly bill.

As amended by the House, the bill has an exception for farms that use more than 3,000 kilowatts per month, as well as for major industrial consumers that use more than 75 million kilowatts.

The bill, which was passed by the House in February, will be taken up today for further amendments and could receive a final vote.

This is the third year O’Malley has proposed similar legislation, but the first year it has made it to the full Senate for a vote. In previous years, the bill died in committee, but Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach changed committee membership to ensure that the proposal would make it out of the Senate Finance Committee.

The extra costs — necessitated by the high cost of developing the infrastructure needed to produce wind energy offshore, including the construction of about 40 400-foot turbines — will not show up on customers’ bills until the farm is producing energy, which could be 2017 at the earliest, administration officials said.

“This is the most expensive energy in the world. In the world,” said Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin (R-Dist. 36) of Elkton. “And we’re creating a carve-out for it.”

hnunn@gazette.net