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80K ocean acres to fuel wind power in Md.

Tuesday - 12/17/2013, 3:52pm  ET

BALTIMORE, Md. - By 2018, off the shore of Ocean City, you may see wind turbines spinning in the breeze.

The U.S. Department of the Interior along with State of the Maryland announced a proposal in Baltimore on Tuesday to make 80,000 acres of ocean available for lease for companies looking to get into the wind energy business.

"It's great to see this kind of wind energy being developed by such a densely populated area," said Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior. "This wind energy area could support enough electricity to power about 300,000 homes."

The proposed Maryland Wind Energy Area will be located 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City, with power lines stretching to the shore.

"This offshore wind development will not only power 300,000 homes with renewable energy, it will also create jobs," said Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

"We are now creating green jobs at the fastest rate of any state in the country," he said.

Starting in January, grants will be available from the state for companies looking to get involved with the process. The state's Earn Initiative will offer a $500,000 grant to help with construction and a $25,000 grant for companies looking to bid for ocean space.

The proposal will be open for public comment through February. Then an auction date will be set.

The governor says this is about creating "a more energy secure future for our children. Not a future of less, but a future of more."

O'Malley said green energy jobs had increased 18 percent between 2010 and 2011 in Maryland.

He had pushed for legislation that created a framework to develop offshore wind, which the legislature approved last session.

Tommy Landers, Maryland and D.C. policy director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, supports the move to allow offshore wind power turbines.

"It only makes sense, as we face the increasing stress of global warming, to tap into this vast array of clean power right off our shore," Landers said.

Opponents of the plan say it will lead to higher taxes and higher electric bills in the state.

The proposed Maryland site is the third of its kind in the nation. In September, there was an auction of 112,799 acres off Virginia. The first successful auction happened this summer for 164,750 acres off Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

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