After two years of unsuccessful efforts in Annapolis, the Maryland Senate has advanced Gov. Martin O'Malley's bill that would expand wind power off the state's Eastern Shore.
The Senate will take its final vote either tomorrow or on Monday, but preliminary approval came today after Senate President Mike Miller pushed the bill passed the second reader phase, which is when amendments to legislation is considered.
Six amendments were defeated today by wide margins, so Miller advanced the bill even though Republican senators said they had more amendments to offer.
GOP lawmakers criticize the cost of offshore wind, which is the most expensive type of renewable energy source according to Sen. E.J. Pipken of the Eastern Shore, who also decries its reliability.
"You can't make the wind blow all the time," says Pipken. "You can't make the wind blow off the coast of Ocean City in the summer. No other company, outside the area, is going to pay a lot of money for that capacity because they can't count on it."
Supporters like Democratic Sen. Thomas Middleton say Maryland regulators cannot approve offshore wind farms until developers prove the environmental, economic, and health benefits of the measure.
The plan would pave the way for an offshore wind farm off the coast of Ocean City, Md., and will cost state residents as much as $1.50 per month. O'Malley has noted that any large offshore wind project would require other states or the federal government to participate in some capacity.
It failed to get out of a Senate committee last year, but some reshuffling of committee members has allowed the bill the move forward. Miller removed Sen. Anthony Muse — who was against the measure — and replaced him with fellow Prince George's County Democrat Victor Ramirez, who views wind power more favorably.
Even supporters concede the incentives offered to developers have been so watered down over three years of legislative debate in Annapolis that it's unlikely any will set up offshore wind farms in Maryland in the short-term.