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Maryland joins partnership with Virginia, North Carolina to advance offshore wind projects

Maryland has formed a coalition with two states in the region to further projects that would bring offshore wind farms to the East Coast.

Gov. Larry Hogan, alongside governors Ralph Northam of Virginia and Roy Cooper of North Carolina, announced Thursday the coalition, called the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Regional Transformative Partnership for Offshore Wind Energy Resources, or SMART-POWER.

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The three states have joined together in hopes of attracting manufacturing business for offshore wind projects, reducing costs of projects through supply chain development, sharing information and synchronizing their regulations.

“Maryland has been leading the charge when it comes to real, bipartisan, common sense solutions and we are proud to continue setting an example for the nation of bold environmental leadership,” Hogan said in a news release. “Joining this multistate partnership to expand offshore wind development will further our strong record of supporting responsible energy projects that provide jobs, clean air benefits, and energy independence.”

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Industry and environmental groups lauded the move Thursday.

“This partnership between Mid-Atlantic States is only the start of unlocking the region’s massive potential for clean affordable offshore wind energy,” wrote David Smedick, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Representative, in a news release.

The Tradepoint Atlantic facility in Sparrows Point, the staging area for wind turbines headed for the coast of Ocean City, also voiced support of the plan.

“Regulatory certainty and supply chain coordination will be critical as this emerging new energy sector takes shape,” said Russell Williams, Director of Marine Development for Tradepoint Atlantic, in a news release.

The newly announced coalition could certainly draw business to Tradepoint, said Liz Burdock, CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind. It could also help Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina catch up to states in the Northeast, such as New Jersey, that have made larger commitments to offshore wind energy, she said.

“It would really create a nice market in the Mid-Atlantic for offshore wind development,” she said. “And I think that that would result in specifically Tradepoint Atlantic getting used more.”

In August, the developer behind that Ocean City project won approval from state officials to construct taller turbines than originally expected in the Atlantic. The company, Ørsted, is still waiting for certain federal approval from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

US Wind, which has also gotten preliminary approval for a project off the coast of Ocean City but is waiting on a federal OK, voiced support of the new partnership, too.

“We believe this strategic multistate partnership will be critical leverage right now as many regions compete to attract the larger economic development that comes with the full offshore wind manufacturing supply chain,” wrote Salvo Vitale, US Wind country manager.

The new partnership could help the states collectively advocate for themselves at the federal level, too, Burdock said.

“This would really help, I believe, spur the federal government to move more quickly on processing these applications,” she said.

Kim Coble, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, said teamwork by the three states will likely help attract offshore wind companies to the region.

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“They just run into brick wall after brick wall,” Coble said. “I could see where a company’s not gonna invest that much to get a little project in Maryland going, but they might invest a lot more to get a whole slew of projects between Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina going.”

Maryland has committed to draw half its energy portfolio from renewable sources by 2030. Coble said offshore wind farms, like the two projects shooting for Ocean City’s coast, will be a critical part of meeting that goal. Currently, Maryland doesn’t have any offshore wind operations up and running.

“We’re out of time,” she said. “We believe in collaboration, we believe in partnership, but we are down to time for action now. And that’s why we applaud this first step, but we’re really anxious to see what the next step is.”

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