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O’Malley drops wind energy bill

Gov. Martin O’Malley introduced one of his key pieces of energy legislation Friday, a bill that would require utilities to enter into long-term contracts to buy electricity generated by offshore wind turbines.

The state’s utilities would have to combine to buy between 400 megawatts and 600 megawatts of wind power. It’s one-half of O’Malley’s attempt to build from scratch a market for wind power in the state. The governor hopes to spur development of an offshore wind farm by guaranteeing buyers for its products, and will later introduce a bill to lure manufacturers of wind turbine components to the state with tax credits.

“By requiring the utilities to enter into long-term agreements, we can finally shift our focus from short term profit to our state’s long-term energy security,” O’Malley said in a written statement.

The administration estimates construction of a 500 MW wind farm would require 2,000 manufacturing and construction jobs over five years, and 400 permanent jobs beyond that. The farm would generate enough power to power half of the homes in Baltimore City, or 80 percent of the homes on the Eastern Shore, according to the Maryland Energy Administration.

Federal officials are reviewing applications to build wind farms in the 207 square nautical miles designated for wind energy off Maryland’s coast. The MEA expects to see the first turbines spinning there in 2016.