Maryland may be lagging behind some Appalachian neighbors in terms of wind energy development, but officials, regulators and developers in the state are determined to improve the climate.
There are no commercial wind projects in the ground here yet, though developers have proposed three projects that would produce 180 megawatts of power. (One megawatt is enough electricity to supply 800-1,000 homes.) As those projects move through various stages of the permitting process, wind generation is gaining a foothold in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Some developers say while Maryland’s regulatory climate can prove challenging for wind energy projects, the state has the potential to make their efforts worthwhile.
Still, state officials gave an optimistic view of the future of wind energy in Maryland at a workshop hosted by the Maryland Energy Administration yesterday.
Frederick Davis, the administration’s director, said the agency is working to promote the development of alternative energy sources, including wind.
“We encourage and try to facilitate wind energy projects and any type of renewable energy projects in the state,” he said.
Crissy Godfrey, program manager for wind and climate change at the energy administration, outlined several efforts underway to help with all levels of wind development, from single, private use turbines to large commercial projects.
The administration has already approved loans for three of six anemometers – a wind measurement device – to landowners who want to test the potential for wind generation on their properties, Godfrey said, and should award the other three within the next few months.
She also discussed the state incentives for development, including tax credits and a requirement that utilities selling power in the state include some renewable energy in their portfolio.
A federal official seemed convinced that Maryland has a potential to produce energy from its wind resources.
Phil Dougherty, of the Department of Energy’s Wind Power America Program, predicted Maryland would have at least 100 megawatts of wind generation capacity by the end of the decade.
He said an increase in wind energy could stabilize the volatility of energy prices, stimulate rural economies and bolster the nation’s economic security.
Developers who are working to build commercial wind projects in Maryland said the permitting system makes projects like theirs vulnerable to small opposition groups.
“A very small group of people can create very substantial delays,” said Kevin Rackstraw, director of project development for Clipper Windpower Inc., a California company that has proposed two sets of wind turbines, generating about 100 megawatts along a ridgeline in Garrett County, near Oakland.
Wayne Rogers, of Annapolis-based Synergics, which has proposed a wind project at nearby Roth Rock, pointed to projects in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and echoed the sentiment that political circumstances tend to make development more difficult in Maryland.
Rackstraw said Maryland is an attractive place to build wind generation, because it could supply a good portion of the state’s needs.
“When you look at the size of our state and the demand, we could get a pretty substantial piece of our electricity from wind generation,” he said.
All the state needs, he said, is the political will. He said it might make sense to close some loopholes in the requirement that utilities include renewable energy in their portfolio. Those make it possible to draw renewable energy from other, sometimes far-away states that are within the regional grid.
Kerry Campbell, of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, outlined some of the steps that his state – which has sites producing 153 megawatts of wind power, with another 26 megawatts due to go on-line soon – has taken to encourage wind development.
Those include financial incentives, assessment programs and a commitment by the state to buy wind energy from producers. The state has also provided a model ordinance to support wind development for local governments.
Pennsylvania continues to study ways to help resolve issues surrounding wind development and its effect on wildlife. Some Maryland developers have run into problems based on their projects’ effect on wildlife.
Maryland has a similar program to study wind power’s impact on bird and bat populations.
State officials also outlined some of their efforts to encourage smaller-scale wind development.
John Sillin, director of energy resource and markets for the Maryland Public Service Commission, said the PSC is working to implement legislation that allows for net metering, which would let customers use renewable resources, like wind, to draw down their power bills.
According to Sillin, net metering “enables customers to offset their consumption by allowing their electric meters to turn backwards when they generate electricity in excess of their demand.”
By Andy Rosen