For the third time in three years, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley wants Maryland ratepayers to subsidize a $1.5 billion wind farm 10 miles offshore from Ocean City. Lawmakers have every reason to wonder, first, why such a subsidy is even necessary if the project truly holds promise; and second, whether further subsidies for such projects are wise, especially given those already in existence.
This is O'Malley's third attempt to secure the subsidy, which places a surcharge on Maryland ratepayers. It comes on the heels of Congress' passage of a $12 billion, one-year extension of the federal wind power production tax credit as part of "fiscal cliff" legislation. O'Malley's previous attempts to ram this project through the legislature have been thwarted. Although a bill passed the House of Delegates last spring, it died in the state Senate.
Not only would O'Malley's proposal subsidize wind power in general, it would create a new mandate specifically for offshore wind power: 2.5 percent of all electricity distributed in Maryland would have to come from turbines set in the ocean. This is really no way to determine where Marylanders' electricity comes from.
What's more, this push to act quickly on offshore windmills comes after O'Malley set out a series of hoops -- including 14 studies -- for Western Marylanders to jump through before they can begin to access the natural gas in the ground there. His latest budget precludes any fracking there until at least August of next year, when a newly proposed study is to be completed.
Despite existing subsidies and 30 state laws (including one in Maryland) mandating the use of renewable energy, many wind power companies are retrenching. Iberdrola Renewables, a Spanish firm, is canceling 100 wind projects in the U.S. Vestas, a Danish wind turbine manufacturer, is laying off 2,000 employees in Colorado.
According to the Institute for Energy Research, the Criterion Wind Project near Oakland, Md., kills more birds and bats per turbine than any in the country, requiring it to be "unofficially exempted" from the Eagle Protection and Migratory Bird Treaty acts.
Three times now, O'Malley has proposed forcing Maryland ratepayers to pay higher electric bills for a power source that is intermittent (the wind doesn't always blow) and more expensive. Legislators should pull the plug on this one.