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Advocates: N.J. Law A Model For Md. Offshore Wind

BALTIMORE (AP) -- A New Jersey offshore wind law could serve as a model for developing the industry in Maryland, environmentalists and offshore wind industry officials said Friday.

The New Jersey law signed two years ago mandates 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind be sold in the state, but doesn't require utilities to enter into long-term contracts. That would have been required under a Maryland bill that failed to make it out of the legislature last year because of concerns about the cost to ratepayers. Gov. Martin O'Malley has said his administration plans another bill but has not revealed any details.

Supporters of the New Jersey law say it is based on a similar law that has been successful in promoting New Jersey's solar power industry by requiring utilities to purchase solar-energy production certificates or pay a fee.

New Jersey regulators are still working out details such as how much utilities would have to pay if they don't buy the offshore certificates, said Matt Elliot, a senior advocate with Environment New Jersey.

Supporters hope the New Jersey law will attract investment.

"How do we send a signal to the markets that New Jersey is serious about investing in offshore wind? Given that the technology already exists, it's there, it's proven, all you have to do, I think, as a state is show that you're serious and that you're willing to put some money behind it," Elliot said in a
teleconference hosted by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

The offshore wind industry does not exist yet in this country and Mid-Atlantic efforts had a set-back last month when New Jersey-based NRG Energy officially ended its offshore wind power contract with Delmarva Power. NRG Energy, the parent company of Bluewater Wind, had said previously that it planned to terminate the contract if a buyer for Bluewater did not come forward because of problems gaining financing for the project, which would have put 49 to 150 turbines about 13 miles off the Delaware coast.

Bob Mitchell, CEO, Atlantic Wind Connection, which is hoping to build an offshore transmission line, said he was confident others would step forward.

"I think while Delaware has experienced a bit of a setback with NRG not following through with the Bluewater Wind project, I will not be surprised if, in fact, in a few months we see one or two other entities coming forward to fill the vacuum that is left by NRG," Mitchell said.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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