The Great Bay Wind Energy installation in Somerset County on the Lower Eastern Shore is a major construction project requiring additions to existing high voltage lines, the construction of access roads, and other support structures. It also presents an opportunity to develop industries ancillary to the direct operation of wind energy projects within and far beyond Maryland.
The economic impact of the Great Bay project occurs in both the initial construction phase and the subsequent operation and maintenance phase. Two years ago, the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore was commissioned to evaluate the effects on employment, labor income and output and the fiscal effects at the county and state levels. In short, the study found that the project will create hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in direct and indirect economic activity centered in one of Maryland poorest jurisdictions — while adding significant new tax revenues each year to Somerset County. (The full study is available for review at greatbaywind.com.) Obviously, the largest economic impacts will take place during construction, but major impacts will be seen throughout the life of the project.
It is important to emphasize that the development of wind energy projects in Maryland and beyond, presents opportunities to develop manufacturing and other activities that are directly related to the installation, operation, maintenance and repair of wind energy equipment. Given Baltimore's harbor, Maryland is well situated to capture a wide variety of wind energy-related businesses, potentially forming a large part of the supply chain for wind energy components for a large portion of the country.
In my opinion, House Bill 1168, which would effectively kill the Great Bay project, sends a chilling signal to any businesses considering locating within this state and in particular, wind energy-related industries. Given the timing of the proposed interference with the Great Bay project — after receiving the green light to proceed and after investing $4 million — the negative repercussions will be severe in terms of destroying Maryland's image as a state where businesses will be welcomed and nurtured.
Kenneth R. Stanton, Baltimore
The writer is an associate professor of finance and economics at Coppin State University and lead author of the Great Bay Wind Energy economic impact study.