Gov. Martin O'Malley plans to introduce legislation this week that requires big utilities such as Pepco and Baltimore Gas & Electric to buy wind power under long-term contracts. The legislation is aimed at luring investors into the state's budding wind energy industry by locking in long-term demand and price stability for the renewable power source, according to O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec. "This will ensure that when Maryland is ready to invest -- to essentially develop a new industry -- that that industry has the backing of the utilities and public financing to make sure it is attractive to investors," Adamec said.

The Obama administration is developing an offshore wind farm with 300 turbines off the coast of Ocean City. The government opened Maryland's shore to the project in November.

Roughly 300 spinning turbines could power about 30 percent of Maryland's energy needs, according to the O'Malley administration. O'Malley says the wind farm, which spans 206-square-miles of the Atlantic, would employ 4,000 temporary manufacturing and construction jobs, as well as 800 permanent positions.

Eight companies, including two headquartered in Maryland, applied for commercial leases to develop the wind farm. The deadline to apply was Jan. 10.

A rough draft of O'Malley's wind energy legislation does not include any requirements that utilities buy their wind energy from Maryland sources, Adamec said. He emphasized that the bill's language has not been finalized.

O'Malley has made wind farm development a key initiative over his four years in office as part of his effort to obtain 20 percent of Maryland's energy needs from renewable sources by 2022.

He has compared his new wind energy bill to a law the General Assembly passed last year requiring big utilities to buy a higher percentage of their energy from solar sources.

But Adamec said the new bill "doesn't necessarily require utilities to buy a certain percentage [of wind power]."

Maryland Energy Administration spokesman Ian Hines said he expects O'Malley to introduce the bill to the General Assembly this week. Hines said he couldn't discuss details of the bill until after it's introduced.