Offshore wind proposal moves closer to reality for Maryland

Discussion in 'Energy' started by Matthew, Apr 1, 2012.

  1. Matthew

    Matthew Blue dog all the way!

    Mar 16, 2010
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    Portland Oregon
    Offshore wind proposal moves closer to reality for Maryland

    With lower cap on ratepayer fees, project may be scaled down but still a first in our nation

    ov. Martin O'Malley's proposal to create what could become the the United States of America's first Atlantic offshore wind farm was passed by the House of Delegates late Friday and is now before the Senate. Although the measure is far from a done deal, and has undergone changes (with more amendments almost certain to be proposed), this progress is encouraging.

    The bill is controversial for a number of reasons.

    There is opposition to wind power in general --it costs too much to create infrastructure; it's too intermittent; the turbines make noise that affects people who live nearby; the turning blades of the turbines kill birds and other wildlife.

    No source of energy is going to be perfect. There are problems and casualties of the energy sources we use today, including pollution of our environment and waste disposal. The noise and wildlife casualties can be minimized through strategic location of turbines.

    The intermittent aspect of wind is only a major issue if it's the sole source of alternative energy being developed, but it isn't. Wind is being developed as a supplement to more traditional sources of electricity generation.

    All of those concerns except cost of infrastructure are laid aside by the offshore location of Maryland's proposed wind farm.

    Getting the infrastructure built is a different matter, one that may be illuminated somewhat by a quick review of recent history. In fact, this review sheds light on processes taking place today in the United States in several areas.

    In the early years of America's electrification, private utility companies invested in electric infrastructure in the areas where it would be most profitable to them in the future --larger cities. Thus, until the mid-1930s, some 90 percent of the nation's urban population enjoyed access to electrical power, while just 10 percent of rural residents had electricity. The utilities decided it was too costly to expand into rural areas because of low population density.

    But after President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Rural Electrification Act of 1936 was enacted, making millions of dollars in loans available for public, private and cooperative utility development, this changed. In just four years the 10 percent of rural residents with electricity became 25 percent. Everyone benefited.

    It's a public-private model that is still used in countries around the world, and it's a clear precedent for using government-imposed social programs to fund utility infrastructure that ultimately benefits all Americans. Today it is unheard-of for households anywhere in the United States to lack electricity; in fact, such homes are most often condemned and their occupants evicted.

    Another controversial aspect of O'Malley's bill is a fee that will be imposed on electric ratepayers. The original proposal had a $2 maximum fee attached to each monthly residential electric bill and 2 percent added to commercial bills, to begin in 2017 and continue for 20 years. These amounts have been lowered to $1.50 and 1.5 percent respectively. The fees are intended to subsidize the infrastructure investment; the lower amounts will decrease the size and scope of the project; however, they still allow a pioneering enterprise to move forward.

    The REA of 1936 makes it clear that public subsidization of infrastructure for a public utility is not only acceptable, but decidedly beneficial to Americans.

    Offshore wind power generation is especially promising because it answers the most common objections to wind power --turbines located miles offshore are not close enough to human inhabitants to create any potential problems with noise pollution or other dangers and they can be located away from bird migratory routes to minimize wildlife fatalities. And offshore winds are nearly constant; power generation is more reliable than from most land-based turbines. It's being used in other parts of the world without dire consequences.

    There is no absolute guarantee of success in anything that's publicly or privately funded. If we limit ourselves to only providing funding for projects that offer such promises, we stand to lose the spirit of creativity and entrepreneurism that has been a hallmark America's success.

    The time seems right to work out the wrinkles, enabling Maryland to take a leadership role in offshore wind power generation
    Our View: Offshore wind proposal moves closer to reality for Maryland | The Daily Times |
  2. HomeInspect

    HomeInspect Senior Member

    Feb 26, 2012
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    O'Malley has time to think of anything besides taxing the crap out of us here in Maryland?

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