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Poll shows support for Maryland offshore wind power

A majority of Marylanders are willing to shell out more for electricity to buy power from offshore wind farms, according to a poll released Monday by a coalition of environmental groups.

The survey’s respondents were asked, “Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘I would be willing to pay $2 more per month on my electric bill if a greater percentage of my electricity came from clean, local offshore wind farms, instead of coming from coal, oil, and gas?'”

Nearly 62 percent agreed (39.1 percent strongly, 22.6 percent somewhat) and 34.3 percent disagreed (10.4 percent somewhat and 23.9 percent strongly).

Don’t worry if these poll numbers don’t stick with you the first time around. You’ll hear them a lot in the run-up to and all throughout the 2012 General Assembly session.“These poll results couldn’t be more clear. Maryland voters want the General Assembly to bring offshore wind power to the state,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Marylanders understand that the benefits of offshore wind are more than worth a modest initial investment. Indeed, Maryland consumers are likely to actually save money over time as fossil fuel prices rise.”

During the 2011 session, lawmakers shelved a bill sponsored by Gov. Martin O’Malley that would have guaranteed a market for a wind farm off the coast of Ocean City. O’Malley has said the legislation will be back next year, and advocates have kept up the pressure during the legislative offseason. Key legislative committees have held hearings on the issue over the interim, and have more planned before they reconvene next year.

Paying more for wind power found its greatest support among Democrats — 49.1 percent of respondents strongly agreed they would pay more and 28.1 percent somewhat agreed. Among independents, 49.5 percent strongly agreed and 5.9 percent somewhat agreed. The issue had only 36.5 percent support among Republicans surveyed.

The poll by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies Inc. of 805 registered voters was conducted from Sept. 19 to Sept. 27. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

“This poll definitively shows that Marylanders want clean energy now,” added Jim Strong, Sub-District Director for the United Steelworkers in Maryland. “Voters totally understand that we can have thousands of new jobs for an ailing economy while deepening our protection of the environment.”

The 2011 bill would have required the state’s electric utilities to buy 400 megawatts to 600 megawatts of generating capacity from offshore wind turbines for at least 25 years.

That, the governor hoped, would have created a market for wind power to lure developers to 207 square miles off Ocean City designated for wind farm development by the federal government. The state expects to see the first turbines spinning there in 2016.

Building and operating a wind farm to meet the governor’s goal would create 2,000 construction and manufacturing jobs and 400 permanent jobs, the administration estimated.

Those costs would have been shouldered by electric customers in the state. Estimates ranged from as low as $1.50 to as high as $8 a month for the average residential customers, but those projections from the Public Service Commission were later revised down. Legislative analysts predicted the proposal would make households pay $3.61 more per month.