POWER Act seeks to upgrade electric grid, add new turbines off the coast of Ocean City
MARYLAND- The Promoting Offshore Wind Energy Resources (POWER) Act passed out of committee and now heads to the State Senate in Annapolis, promising to upgrade the electric grid of the Eastern Shore, and help with the construction of additional turbines off the coast of Ocean City with the goal of sending power to the rest of the state.
“This legislation is important because if the state doesn’t create a shared infrastructure then each company that builds a wind turbine is going to run their own transmission lines and that could be 6 to 7 transmission lines, instead of building so many different lines this bill takes those and puts into one state facility with shared infrastructure,” said Chesapeake Climate Action Network Maryland Directo Jamie DeMarco.
He says the transmission lines are a project with at least a decade of development time, which he says is the reason the measure must be enacted as fast as possible.
“The biggest barrier to Maryland building offshore wind is a lack of transmission when we built the grid on the Delmarva peninsula no one thought we’d put power plants in the ocean we need to upgrade the grid to get that power to the load centers of the state,” he said.
He says by having the infrastructure be state-run and managed, they can mitigate the impact, reduce overhead and be more involved in bid selection for the companies that would plug into the new system.
“It’s reducing the impact on the Eastern Shore by putting it all in one project, one landing line one point on infrastructure,” he said.
But the enthusiasm is not universal, with State Senator Mary Beth Carozza highlighting issues she says were raised by local officials in Ocean City and were unaddressed in the bill.
In a statement to 47 ABC, Sen. Carozza said:
“I voted against this legislation in Committee as it fails to address the Town of Ocean City’s serious concerns when it comes to bringing offshore transmission lines into the corporate limits of Ocean City and our consistent objections to locating the industrial scale offshore wind turbines within view of our shoreline.”
Working with Mayor Meehan and town officials, I offered amendments in Committee that one, would exclude any landfalls, additional transmission or infrastructure or any ground equipment within the corporate limits of Ocean City given its populated beachfront and development within Ocean City; and two, would require that any offshore wind projects be located 27 miles from the Maryland coastline just as they do in Virginia and North Carolina. The Committee rejected these commonsense amendments and continues to ignore Ocean City’s concerns.
Senator Carozza also noted that Ocean City’s existing electric infrastructure in and around Ocean City consists of smaller-sized electric distribution lines that already are at maximum capacity and are simply too small to handle 8,500 MW of offshore shore electricity.
“ I also remain extremely concerned about the cost to both Maryland ratepayers and taxpayers. In New Jersey, the builder of the offshore wind project has already gone back to the ratepayers for more money, and it was a $31 million cost to Rhode Island utility customers for dealing with power outages and cable repairs with the cable landfalls for the Block Island offshore wind project. This should give pause to the Maryland General Assembly from rushing this offshore wind procurement and transmission bill which I will continue to oppose.”
DeMarco tells 47ABC, that the aforementioned issues with the grid are why the bill is including the upgrade and believes the state needs this program to compete with other states and match their sustainability goals.
“Maryland is currently building two gigawatts of offshore wind in the process but if we want to be competitive with states like New Jersey and New York that are building upwards of ten we need we need to pass new legislation,” DeMarco said.
The bill is expected to be voted on Thursday, March 16th.