My day-to-day world as an environmental lobbyist tends to be very small: meetings, conference calls, legislator visits, policy research, and data entry and analysis, most of which happen between our Maryland Avenue office and the legislative campus just two blocks away.  On October 5th, however, I had the opportunity as a representative of the Maryland Climate Coalition and the Political Director of Maryland LCV, to join a small delegation of legislators and other stakeholders to visit the off-shore wind project off the coast of Rhode Island.  It was a whirlwind (pun intended) tour of the first off-shore wind project on the East Coast, showcasing the extraordinary power of off-shore wind, the cutting-edge technology, as well as the beauty of the turbines in action.

After being met at the airport by a representative of the Maryland Business Network for Off-Shore Wind, the delegation – which included Senator Kathy Klausmeier (D8-Baltimore County), Delegate Tawanna Gaines (D22-Prince George’s County), and Delegate Sally Jameson (D28-Charles County), as well as representatives from the Town Creek and Abell Foundations – joined scientists, industry representatives, government agency staff, and environmentalists on a small touring boat as it charged through active seas out to the newly completed turbines.

You can see from the pictures that the weather was variable, ranging from clear blue skies to more blustery and ominous cloud cover.  Many of us found the experience of facing the wind and the rough sea to be a challenge, but it was clear that the turbines were perfectly designed for the elements. Although the project experts gave us a great deal of detail about each of the elements of construction, I think that many of us were somewhat caught off guard by the sheer size, as well as the beauty – of what we were looking at.

Each blade is nearly one-and-a-half times the length of a football field, and each fully-assembled turbine, including the platform, stands twice as high as the statue of liberty.  The five turbines together generate 30 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power 17,000 homes and lower carbon emissions by an estimated 40,000 tons annually. The pride in the success of the project developers, as well as the laborers who were involved in the construction, was apparent in both the formal presentations and informal conversations as the boat wended its way around the project.

Equally important to each of member of the delegation was the great potential for the expansion of wind energy down the coast, and the urgency of moving forward on Maryland’s offshore wind project.  Thousands of people were employed in the construction and maintenance of the Rhode Island project, many of whom were hired locally and provided with on-the-job training and advancement opportunities in a growing field.  The projects, sited and constructed with environmental sensitivity, can provide welcome jobs for Marylander while reducing our reliance on climate-destroying fossil fuels. I was especially impressed by my conversation with the representative from The Nature Conservancy, who explained the care with which the project construction was organized to minimize the impact to both seabirds and  marine life, especially the migration of the endangered right whales. The scientific monitoring is extensive, and the cooperation between the environmentalists and the project managers is tight.

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During our trip back to shore, and then back to Maryland, we all found ourselves talking about the project and the potential, in Maryland.  We talked about, among other thing, the need to override the Governor’s veto of the Clean Energy Jobs Act, and the importance of pressing forward with solid and visionary climate and energy legislation.  It was clear that, despite the long day, everyone found themselves energized – and that we were energized with wind power.

Kristen Harbeson
Political Director of Maryland LCV