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O’Malley deal with Exelon touted by wind energy backers in Maryland

The ink isn’t yet dry on Gov. Martin O’Malley’s deal with Exelon Corp. and Constellation Energy Group, but wind energy advocates are already hailing the accord as a boon for their cause.

That’s not surprising. They have 32 million reasons to do just that.

“It means Maryland is one step closer to developing a home-grown manufacturing base for wind turbines and an overall economy that helps solve global warming,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

The Constellation/Exelon merger deal negotiated by O’Malley will require Exelon to pay $30 million into an offshore wind energy development fund that would allow the state to pay some of the permitting costs for a wind farm in the waters off Ocean City. Another $2 million would be paid to Maryland colleges and universities to fund wind energy research.

Said Karla Raettig, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters: “Maryland voters elected the governor and their legislators on the promise of a clean energy economy. This settlement will help meet that promise and we are pleased Maryland is getting ahead of the curve on offshore wind.”

Offshore wind has been a big issue for O’Malley, straddling his energy, environmental and economic agendas.

This spring, he urged legislators to pass a bill that would have forced utilities to buy at least 400 MW of generating capacity from a yet-to-be-built offshore wind farm. That would have essentially guaranteed a market for offshore wind in the state and, administration officials hoped, spurred an energy company to build that wind farm.

Lawmakers, however, balked at the high costs that would be passed on to consumers and the wind bill drifted into summer study, where the Senate Finance and House Economic Matters committees have been poring over the ins and outs of the wind industry.

O’Malley has vowed to pass an offshore wind bill and will bring the legislation back, in some form, in 2012. The $30 million that would be put toward permitting costs — the Public Service Commission has not yet ruled on the acquisition of Constellation by Exelon — would only make an offshore wind project more attractive.

There are also parts of the deal to like for land-based wind farms.

The deal requires Exelon to generate 125 MW from renewable sources other than solar. If that was all done through wind turbines, that would double the state’s wind energy generating capacity.