Wind farm construction could bring jobs to Point
Wednesday, 06 March 2013 12:16

Wind bill passes House, up for vote in Senate

by Bill Gates

    Power-generating windmills in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ocean City would not seem to have much of a connection to Dundalk-Edgemere.
    Del. John Olszewski Jr. (6th District) believes those windmills have the potential to bring jobs to the area, which is why he supported the bill for construction of the proposed “wind farm” in committee and voted for it on the House floor.
    See, those windmills have to be built by someone, somewhere ...
    “We would stand to benefit most from the job impact,” Olszewski said. “A moderate-sized wind farm could create up to 1,500 jobs from the potential to supply component parts.”
    Constructing the wind farm would require a waterfront area that provided heavy lifting capability for unloading; storage space; a pre-assembly work area; and waterside staging.
   

The pre-assembly process would include quality control and electrical installations requiring hundreds of skilled workers.
    The Seagirt Marine Terminal has been mentioned as a potential candidate.
    “While Sparrows Point is not clearly mentioned, the thought is that the very large needs for manufacturing space would fit very well there,” Olszewski said. “And there are not the type of manufacturing opportunities Sparrows Point offers just about anywhere else up and down the Eastern Seaboard.”
    The manufacturing space needed is approximately the size of 93 football fields (173 acres).
    The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013, HB 226, passed the House of Delegates on Feb. 22 by an 86-48 vote.
    The bill requires a specific percentage of electricity sold in Maryland to eventually come from the wind farms.
    To encourage construction of the wind farm, residential utility customers will provide funds through a $1.50 surcharge on their gas and electric bills.
    The surcharge for commercial utility customers will be about 1.5 percent (of their total bill) per month.
    Del. Joseph “Sonny” Minnick voted against the bill because of the surcharge and his belief that any potential developers would not be able to meet all the criteria in the bill.
    Utility customers would not see an increase in their bills until electricity is being produced by wind farms, which is unlikely to happen before 2017 should the bill pass the Senate.
    Some of the criteria include that the state and utility customers will not be responsible for any cost overruns associated with building the wind farm; and that the developer must deposit $2 million into the Maryland Offshore Wind Business Development Fund within 60 days of being awarded the project, another $2 million within one year, and an additional $2 million within two years.
    The Senate Finance Committee gave the bill a favorable report on Tuesday, meaning it will likely go to the Senate floor for a  vote.
    The House attached an amendment to the bill requiring that, once the initial term expired, the developer would have to share profits with utility ratepayers on a 50/50 split, Olszewski said.
    “It’s all about jobs,” Olszwski said. “We’ve lost 85,000 manufacturing jobs in Maryland since 1990.
    “I also want to do whatever I can to support the renewable energy industry in southeast Baltimore County, and lessen our dependence on fossil fuels,” he added.
   
Bottle deposits
    On a related note, Olszewski is the co-sponsor of a bill that would bring refundable bottle deposits back to Maryland.
    The Statewide Container Recycling Incentive Program, House bill 1085, is scheduled for a hearing before the House Environmental Matters Committee on Friday.
    The bill’s chief sponsor is Del. Maggie McIntosh, the chairwoman of the Environmental Matters Committee.
    Under the bill, customers would pay a five-cent surcharge on all sealed metal, glass and plastic containers.
    The bottle could be returned later to reclaim the nickel.
    There has been resistance to the bill from retailers who do not want to have to deal with the logistics of collecting bottles and issuing refunds.
    “We would set up redemption centers, bypassing retailers, to collect the bottles,” Olszewski said.
    Currently, only one billion out of four billion empty containers are recycled every year in Maryland.
    “That’s three billion bottles entering the waste stream,” Olszewski said. “States with deposit programs usually see 75 percent of empty containers recycled.”