AC Wind plans to spend upward of $10 million retrofitting a former US Marine boat plant to begin molding fiberglass wind turbine blades, company executives told The Associated Press in an interview Friday.
If successful, AC Wind would be the state’s first manufacturer of wind turbine parts and could hire more than 200 workers to build the blades.
“We’re not representing research and development, we’re going to be true manufacturing, creating hundreds of jobs, and made in the state of Maryland,” said John Congedo, president of AC Wind.
The Obama administration has prioritized offshore wind energy development along the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. Working in coordination with East Coast governors, the Interior Department has outlined a handful of wind energy areas, including one zone about 12 miles east of Ocean City.
Working from the state’s end, Gov. Martin O’Malley is pushing a proposal that would mandate state utilities buy the wind energy generated in those zones. If successful, Maryland utilities would lock in to 25-year wind energy contracts.
“In this competitive new economy, the states that win will be those that succeed in leveraging innovation into job creation and economic growth,” O’Malley said at a House hearing on his offshore wind bill last week.
The O’Malley administration is estimating that 500 megawatts could be generated by turbines in the federal zone off Maryland’s coast and that they could be running by 2016.
Eight companies, including one managed by O’Malley’s former chief of staff, Michael Enright, have shown interest in developing the federal plots.
European companies have long built the parts needed for each turbine — including the towers, blades and turbines themselves. But supporters, including O’Malley, have sold offshore wind as a way to create a new industry supplying wind projects along the East Coast.
The Salisbury plant would be overhauled to make the fiberglass blades to specifications provided by turbine manufacturers like GE, Congedo said. AC Wind is partnering with Molded Fiber Glass Cos. in Ohio, he said.
The blades would be molded to those specifications, then shipped by rail or barge and eventually attached to the turbines, Congedo said.
“We really want to bring this back to the U.S. and specifically to Maryland,” said Rick Gay, AC Wind’s chief operating officer. “We don’t want to see this work going away. We want to do it right here.”