Clean energy journalism for a cooler tomorrow

Maryland set to adopt one of the biggest offshore wind goals in US

Governor Wes Moore is poised to sign the POWER Act, which calls for building 8.5 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2031 to meet the state’s clean energy targets.
By Maria Gallucci

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Two men have a conversation, with a poster advertising an offshore wind conference behind them.
Maryland Governor Wes Moore spoke at an offshore wind forum in Baltimore on March 29, 2023. (Gov. Moore)

Update: On April 21, Maryland Governor Wes Moore signed the POWER Act (SB 781), making official the state’s ambitious targets for increasing offshore wind production.

Maryland is poised to set policies that could quadruple the amount of offshore wind planned along the state’s Atlantic coastline.

On Monday, Maryland’s General Assembly passed the Promoting Offshore Wind Energy Resources Act, or POWER Act. The comprehensive legislation sets a nonbinding goal of 8.5 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2031, up from the 2 gigawatts of projects now in various stages of development.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore (D) has promised to sign the bill as part of the state’s broader effort to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2035. The 8.5-gigawatt ambition would give Maryland the second largest offshore wind goal in the country, after New York — and help keep the Biden administration on track for its target of installing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030

Our administration is serious about offshore wind, and Maryland is ready to lead,” Governor Moore said in late March when he first announced the state’s goals at the International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum held in Baltimore.

Maryland’s offshore wind push arrives as the fledgling industry is seeing a surge of momentum in the United States after years of regulatory delays, financial issues and well-funded opposition campaigns stunted progress.

Energy developers have been proposing to install wind turbines in U.S. waters for more than two decades. To date, only 42 megawatts of total offshore wind capacity has been installed — including five turbines near Rhode Island and two more near Virginia. That’s well below 1 percent of the 64,300 megawatts (64.3 gigawatts) of offshore wind installed worldwide.

Offshore wind turbines twirl in the distance as a ship cuts across the blue sea.
Offshore wind turbines twirl in the Belgian North Sea. (James Arthur Gekiere/Belga Mag/AFP/Getty Images)

Now, however, nearly a dozen states have more than 35 gigawatts of offshore wind projects in their combined pipeline.

Last week, federal authorities cleared the way to begin turbine construction on the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm. Work is set to start soon on the 132-megawatt South Fork Wind project near Long Island, New York, which broke ground on the project’s onshore components early last year and is expected to begin operating by the end of 2023.

In Maryland, four offshore wind projects have received approval from the state’s Public Service Commission. Baltimore-based U.S. Wind is developing the 22-turbine MarWin and 55-turbine Momentum Wind projects. Danish energy giant Ørsted is building the 9-turbine Skipjack 1 and the 60-turbine Skipjack 2 projects.

All four projects are slated to be operating by 2026, though none have started construction yet. Each of the Maryland developers is building its own transmission lines, which carry wind power produced by offshore turbines to the land-based grid — a crucial yet expensive addition that involves temporarily disturbing the seafloor.

Maryland’s POWER Act intends to simplify the process by establishing shared transmission infrastructure to help reduce the cost and environmental impacts of future offshore wind farms. The idea is to create something like a giant power strip” to which multiple projects can connect, Jamie DeMarco of Chesapeake Climate Action Network told the Baltimore Banner news website.

A man stands at a podium, with three seated people, a giant ship hull and a large American flag in the background
U.S. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) stands before the hull of an unfinished, 262-foot-long vessel in a Louisiana shipyard. The vessel will serve as a floating house for U.S. offshore wind farm technicians. (Ørsted)

The legislation also aims to strengthen labor standards” for offshore wind manufacturing, installation and maintenance work and provide well-paying union jobs. That will include new positions at Sparrows Point Steel, the former home of Bethlehem Steel that’s being transformed into the state’s offshore wind manufacturing factory. Late last month, U.S. Wind and Haizea Wind Group announced plans to make steel components for turbine towers and foundations at the Baltimore County facility.

Still, even as the U.S. offshore wind industry hits new milestones, developers continue to face several headwinds that threaten to slow the pace of projects.

Republican lawmakers and conservative organizations, in Maryland and nationwide, are mounting renewed opposition to offshore wind, citing concerns — for which there is no supporting evidence — that the coastal projects have led to recent whale deaths. Beyond politics, developers face a slew of supply-chain challenges, including the rising price of steel, which are raising costs and slowing construction timelines. The nation’s lack of port and vessel infrastructure needed to service offshore wind farms could further delay projects in coming years.

On that last point, however, the industry is making important, if incremental, gains.

In Louisiana, the shipbuilding giant Edison Chouest Offshore is assembling260-foot-long vessel that will serve as a floating house and warehouse for technicians as they build and maintain offshore wind farms in the U.S. Northeast. The ship is being built for Ørsted and Eversource, a New England energy provider, which are jointly developing the South Fork Wind farm in New York.

Last week, Edison Chouest announced that the U.S.-flagged vessel, named Eco Edison, had reached 50 percent completion. Edison Chouset, Ørsted and Eversource said they expect to christen the ship in 2024.

Maria Gallucci is a senior reporter at Canary Media. She covers emerging clean energy technologies and efforts to electrify transportation and decarbonize heavy industry.