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On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy P. Beaudreau joined Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley to announce the proposed notice of sale for nearly 80,000 acres offshore Maryland for commercial wind energy leasing.

The DOI says that, if fully developed, the Maryland Wind Energy Area (WEA) could support between 850 to 1,450 MW of commercial wind generation, enough electricity to power approximately 300,000 homes. The part of the WEA closest to shore is located about 10 nautical miles off the coast of Ocean City, Md.

"Today’s announcement brings our state one step closer to harnessing the tremendous potential of offshore wind energy off our shores and realizing Maryland's clean energy future,” says Gov. O’Malley, a long-time supporter of offshore wind.

Earlier this year, the governor had introduced and later signed into law the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013, which aims to promote and subsidize offshore development. It was his third attempt at establishing the legislation; his 2011 and 2012 versions of the act were defeated by the Maryland General Assembly.

The BOEM proposes to auction the Maryland WEA as two leases: a North Lease Area consisting of 32,737 acres and a South Lease Area consisting of 46,970 acres. The sale, which will be held in the form of an online auction, is expected next year.

The proposed sale notice can be found in the Federal Register and triggers a public comment period ending Feb. 18. Comments received or postmarked by that date will be made available to the public and considered before the publication of a final sale notice. That notice will announce the time and date of the lease sale, which will be held no earlier than 30 days after the publication of the final sale notice in the Federal Register.

To be eligible to participate in the lease sale, the DOI says each bidder must be notified by the BOEM that it is legally, technically and financially qualified by the time the final sale notice is published. The department strongly encourages companies planning to submit a qualification package to submit as early as possible during the comment period to ensure adequate time for processing.

The proposed notice of sale offshore Maryland builds upon two successful offshore wind energy auctions that the DOI held this year. A September auction of 112,799 acres offshore Virginia for wind energy development was provisionally won by Dominion’s Virginia Electric and Power Co., generating a high bid of $1.6 million. Earlier this summer, the DOI held its first successful offshore wind lease sale of 164,750 acres offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts won by Deepwater Wind, generating $3.8 million in high bids.

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