Offshore wind gathering steam in OC

Supporters of putting wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean a dozen miles off Ocean City are winning over some of the beach resort town's business leaders.

Environment Maryland released a letter this week urging Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to relax federal rules to speed the approval of offshore wind projects.   The missive was signed by eight OC business owners or representatives, including the head of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association.

The environmental group, normally no fan of relaxing regulations, is planning a town hall meeting in Ocean City on Thursday to talk up offshore wind.   It'll be at 6:30 pm at St. Paul's-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 302 N. Baltimore Ave.

The near-shore oceans along the U.S. coastline have strong and steady enough winds that turbines built offshore could generate up to 4,150 gigawatts of electricity, according to a recent report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.  That's about four times the nation's current electricity generating capacity from all energy sources.  The report qualified its assessment by noting that some areas may be off-limits for turbines because of "environmental, human use or technical considerations." 

While turbines have been put offshore in Europe and China, none has been planted off the U.S. coast yet, though the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts recently won long-fought-over approval.  Maryland has joined with other Mid-Atlantic states in seeking to collaborate on offshore wind development.  But the state has yet to complete its own environmental and feasibility assessment for placing turbines off Ocean City and Assateague Island.

(Offshore wind turbines near the Donghai Bridge in Shanghai, China, AP photo, March 2010)

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