A major leap forward in US Offshore Wind is about to be taken off the coast of Maryland next month. By the 17 May a decision will be made on whether developers US Wind or their rivals Deepwater will win the contract to build America's second offshore wind farm.
US Wind have the ambitious vision of constructing a 187 turbine, 750 MW wind farm by 2022, this would be larger than the London Array and would be built in three stages. Paul Rich, US Wind's Director of Project Development said that the company's "go big" approach is Maryland's best bet for establishing itself as a long-term industry leader.
Rich is excited about the potential of the area to be a leader in offshore wind fabrication and construction. All told the project could create 5,000 new jobs and realise US Wind's vision to be "the Silicon Valley of industrial activity for the offshore wind industry for the whole East Coast."
The first stage would have 250 MW of installed capacity and would be complete by 2020.
Deepwater have a more modest proposal to construct a 15 turbine, 120 MW wind farm, with construction starting in 2020 and completion by 2022. Chris van Beek, President of Deepwater believes that creating another small wind farm, along similar lines to their other (and the only other US offshore wind farm) 5 turbine Block Island Wind Farm, is the most reliable and sensible way forward; "I think we start small and prove to the industry that a wind farm can be built and is possible, and I think that's more important than the size of the project."
Whichever developer wins this round of bidding, the potential for US offshore wind is huge.
There may be job opportunities for experts from Europe (where the industry is well-established) to take their expertise to the US, and the creation of jobs for local skilled trade workers, who have struggled to find work in Maryland's declining manufacturing industry, is huge.
"The promise is enormous for our ready and willing, skilled ironworking workforce and apprenticeship program," said William Beckman, a representative of the Ironworkers Local 5, in testimony submitted to the public service commission. "We will all thrive with exciting new economic development projects that can revive our great city."
The commission is expected to decide whether to move forward with the development by May 17.