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This Week in Clean Economy: Manufacturing Job Surge Seen for East Coast Offshore Wind

Wind farms along Maryland's coast could create thousands of jobs for the nearly 900 companies that are positioned to manufacuture and install turbines.

Apr 6, 2012
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Giant wind turbine blade

The report also cites a December study by the Maryland Energy Administration, which found that central Maryland could create as many as 5,000 jobs and add $650 million to the economy by expanding its steel production and upgrading the Port of Baltimore to accommodate more turbine manufacturing.

Maryland's businesses would have plenty of time to prepare.

The O'Malley administration doesn't expect the state to have an offshore wind farm before 2017. Eight companies have expressed interest in developing projects off Maryland's coast. None have made a solid proposal yet. Developers are waiting for the offshore wind carve-out or tax breaks to help them finance their projects, said Landers of Environment Maryland.

"They're not going to be able to move forward, at least for now, without action by the Maryland legislature," he said.

The Race Is On

Several other Atlantic Coast states are inching closer to putting turbines in their waters.

On Wednesday, New Jersey approved a six-turbine demonstration near Atlantic City. The project could be the nation's first offshore wind installation, though Fishermen's Energy, the developer, still needs to secure financing and an agreement to sell the clean electricity to utilities.

Last week, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell okayed construction of a single wind turbine off the state's eastern shores. Gamesa Energy USA, a subsidiary of the Spanish wind giant, and Newport News Shipbuilding plan to install and test the prototype turbine by late 2013.

In Massachusetts, the decade-old Cape Wind plan got a boost last week. State utility NStar agreed to buy 27.5 percent of the power output from the proposed 130-turbine project. National Grid has already committed to buy 50 percent of its electricity. Having guaranteed customers for the bulk of Cape Wind's power is likely to attract needed investors, the AP reported.

This week, economic consulting firm Charles River Associated found that Cape Wind could reduce wholesale electricity prices for the New England region by $7.2 billion over 25 years, debunking claims by opponents that displacing lower-cost coal and natural gas plants with offshore wind would cause enormous price hikes for utilities and ratepayers.

Beyond the East Coast, five other states are pressing ahead with offshore wind initiatives.

Last week, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania agreed to work with 10 federal agencies to streamline permitting and environmental reviews for offshore wind in the Great Lakes. Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio—which has plans to develop a demonstration project in Lake Erie—declined invitations but could join later, according to media reports.

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