After attending the Maryland Senate hearing for the governor's Offshore Wind Energy Act and seeing some recent coverage of the bill, I feel it's important to set the facts straight on the value that offshore wind will bring to Maryland. One of the main benefits left out in the discussion on wind's economic impact is that offshore wind energy will generate many reliable jobs here in Maryland.
The Maryland workforce is poised to greatly benefit from the bill. In his testimony at the Senate hearing, Jim Strong of the United Steelworkers pointed out that utilizing our offshore wind resources is the only viable plan anyone has come up with to revitalize Maryland's manufacturing sector. To reinforce this point, a recent report finds that Maryland already has more than 1,000 businesses — employing more than 25,000 workers — that can play active and supportive roles in the manufacturing and construction of offshore wind farms. This is why mostly local and union workers were employed in the construction of wind farms out in Garrett County.
In fact, these jobs are already on the horizon. A local company, AC Wind, is investing $10 million to revive a retired Navy composite plant in Salisbury, Maryland, as a turbine blade manufacturing facility. This will mean employment for hundreds of unemployed composite workers. While many of the immediate construction jobs are short term, once we give the industry a kick-start, reemploy our skilled labor force and train them with new skills, we can make Maryland a manufacturing hub for an offshore wind energy industry which is poised to take off on the East Coast.
Keep in mind that the turbines and steel are big and burdensome, so the developers want them to be manufactured close to where they are sited. So once we get this industry rolling on the East Coast, these jobs will not go to other states or China.
The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2011 is a great investment for our state's economy, and we should urge our legislators to pass it.
Jeffrey McManus, Takoma Park
The writer is a lobbyist for the non-profit Chesapeake Climate Action Network