(May 9, 2014) With Ocean City poised to be the site of Maryland’s first large-scale, offshore wind farm, the Business Network for Maryland Offshore Wind is working to connect potential business partners with wind farm developers.
The Network launched its supply chain portal — a listing of businesses from logistics companies to land-based contractors —a month ago, but 75 companies have already signed up for the free service, said Liz Burdock, executive director of the group.
“It’s helpful for the developer,” she said. “Say they wanted a marine diving company to do some work. They would call me, and I could give them the name of the marine diving companies that were interested in the offshore wind project.
“They would have that information instead of trying to put something out to create awareness of the company.”
Businesses from Maryland to Virginia, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine have listed their names with the Network. That should help with the 80,000-acre project planned off Ocean City’s shore, but also with wind farm development farther afield, such as Cape Wind off the Nantucket Sound in Cape Cod or projects in the works in Virginia and Rhode Island, Burdock said.
But the biggest impact will be locally, where operations and maintenance will be staged once the project gets off the ground.
At about 30 percent of the total wind farm project cost — estimated at $1 billion or more — O&M should bring $300 million into the local economy, Burdock said.
“That’s a very large portion of the project costs and they all need to be local jobs,” she said. “You can’t have technicians and parts a long way away from the site.”
The skills needed for such work exist in the area, she said, though additional training in marine safety, health and safety and technical aspects will be needed.
“We have the skill set (and) we have the infrastructure in place to do that. It’s just a matter of finding the capital in order to make those training programs happen,” Burdock said.
On the state level, the offshore wind bill will encourage developers to keep jobs in Maryland, thanks to its requirement that that they show positive economic development in the state to secure ORECs — offshore renewable energy credits, which could be up to $190 per megawatt hour, said Ross Tyler of the Maryland Energy Administration’s Offshore Wind Development Fund.
“The development of offshore wind will drive economic development in Maryland, create high-quality, family-supporting jobs for Maryland residents and play a major role in reducing emissions and protecting the environment,” said Gov. Martin O’Malley, a longtime champion of the project.
His website estimates that the Ocean City Project could bring 850 construction jobs over a five-year period, as well as 160 permanent jobs to Maryland.
The Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab found the Ocean City wind farm area could generate between 850 and 1,450 megawatts of energy — enough to power roughly 300,000 homes annually, said Tracey Moriarty, spokesperson for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
The turbines will be between 10 and 30 miles out to sea and could go up as early as 2018.
The federal government is slated to name the developers of Ocean City’s wind farm in June, Burdock said. After that, the winner will issue a site assessment plan within six months to BOEM for its approval, and then have four and a half years to submit a detailed construction and operations plan for the site before any turbines go up, Moriarty said.
Businesses do not need to be members of the Business Network for Maryland Offshore Wind to sign up for a listing on its supply chain portal.
Visit www.bizmdosw.org to sign up or to learn more about the organization.