Ocean City Today

State to subsidize entry into offshore wind supply chain

By Brian Gilliland | Jul 27, 2017
Merry Mears

(July 28, 2017) Despite offshore wind being far from a done deal, following the introduction of a potentially lethal measure by shore’s congressional representative, Dr. Andy Harris (R-1), the state’s energy administration has secured $600,000 in grants to start a new business or to expand an existing one in Maryland.

“This is important for businesses in Worcester interested in getting into this new industry,” Worcester County Director of Economic Development Merry Mears, said.

Applications, due by Sept. 1 and available via www.energy.maryland.gov, are divided into two main areas of interest: market entry assistance and capital expenditures and facilities upgrades.

The grants are intended to provide a gateway for local businesses to begin to compete in the global offshore energy generation market, and are not limited to the two wind farms that gained Public Service Commission approval this spring. Though the regulatory path for offshore wind turbines in the waters off Ocean City has been mostly cleared, the turbine side of the equation, the one that requires replacement parts and maintenance, is still a couple of years away.

The state will reserve $200,000 for market entry costs, intended to defray costs for manufacturers to bid on a specific job including some administrative costs or for certain travel expenses.

The Maryland Energy Administration expects to issue up to eight grants in this category. An applicant receiving a grant in this category can’t receive a grant in the facilities category until the following fiscal year.

The MEA expects to issue only one or two capital expenditures and facility upgrade grants next year in the $200,000-$400,000 range. These funds can be used to offset restrictive entry costs, or costs that create a high risk. The catch with the funds in this category is the applicant must provide half the cost of the award.

“It’s a vast industry that’s brand new in the U.S., so there’s a lot to learn for everyone. The goal is to get in early, and get in strong,” Mears said.

To that end, a workgroup has formed to provide business owners and interested parties with networking and educational opportunities. The workgroup is scheduled to hold an information session at the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce’s office on Aug. 9 at 9 a.m.

But even as the state continues to encourage wind farm development, the offshore aspect of this technology is caught in a federal snarl via Harris’ amendment to a House appropriations bill for the Department of Interior.

The Harris legislation would prohibit the federal government from conducting required reviews and assessments for any installation closer than 24 nautical miles off the coast. The wind farms proposed for the waters off Ocean City would be situated several miles inside that boundary.


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