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Md., Del. govs ask feds to join wind energy pact

Wed, 07/21/2010 - 2:13pm
RANDALL CHASE - Associated Press Writer - Associated Press

The governors of Delaware and Maryland asked the federal government Wednesday to join their states in buying offshore wind energy as part of an effort to establish a wind energy manufacturing industry in the mid-Atlantic region.

Govs. Jack Markell and Martin O'Malley sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking that he direct federal agencies to join Delaware and Maryland in offering to purchase one gigawatt, or 1 billion watts, of energy from offshore wind turbines.

"By combining our market power with that of the federal government, we can drive demand for over one GW of offshore wind energy in the mid-Atlantic," the governors wrote. "This would create the economies of scale necessary to significantly reduce the cost of offshore wind development, attract manufacturers of offshore wind equipment and installation vessels, and develop high paying green jobs for our workers."

Delaware officials already have authorized utilities to enter into long-term contracts for 230 megawatts of electricity from a planned wind farm off the coast of Rehoboth and Maryland has offered to buy 55 megawatts from the proposed 450 million watt project.

But the governors contend that a commitment to purchase one gigawatt of wind energy could be the catalyst for creation of a manufacturing base and supply chain that could bring up to 20,000 jobs to the region.

"If all we have is a wind farm off the coast of Rehoboth with parts that are made overseas, I think it will be a missed opportunity," Markell told The Associated Press.

A White House spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the letter.

Markell said the project planned about 12 miles off Rehoboth Beach is "absolutely feasible" as currently planned, but that a large power purchase agreement would lead to more job creation in the region by renewable energy businesses.

"It's a bigger opportunity to sell, there's a greater opportunity that they would place their manufacturing facilities in the area," he said.

Officials said the wind energy that would be purchased could power federal facilities in and around the nation's capital, including military installations in Delaware and Maryland.

Given its current size, the planned offshore wind farm would have to be expanded or supplemented with another facility in order to reach gigawatt capacity.

"That would be very good problem to have," Markell said.

Delaware environmental secretary Collin O'Mara said the area in which the offshore wind farm would be built is big enough to accommodate 1.5 gigawatts of generation.

"You could potentially have 300 5-megawatt turbines off the coast," he said.

O'Mara said a Delmarva Power substation near Millsboro that is being upgraded to accommodate a regional transmission line known as the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway, or MAPP, would be able to transfer power from the offshore turbines to the electrical grid serving the mid-Atlantic region.

In addition to soliciting federal participation in a power purchase agreement, O'Malley and Markell also called for better coordination among federal agencies on offshore wind issues and asked Obama to support legislative efforts to remove barriers to wind energy development. Among the goals they cited are increasing loan guarantees, extending production tax credits, streamlining the permitting process and allowing the General Services Administration to enter into power purchase agreements beyond 10 years.

Last month, Maryland, Delaware and eight other East Coast states joined the federal government in forming a consortium to promote the development of offshore wind energy.

A spokeswoman for the Maryland Energy Administration said Wednesday that other states in the consortium had not been approached about participating in a mid-Atlantic power purchase agreement, but that they would be welcome.

The other states in the consortium are Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina.

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