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UMES to install two wind turbines for research

PRINCESS ANNE – Two wind turbines with enough power to fuel hundreds of homes and serve as instruments for student and faculty research should be operational by early next year at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Plans call for two, 2-megawatt turbines suitable for academic research and capable of supplying direct electrical power to meet campus utility needs. Project specifics, such as turbine height and location, would be announced when a final agreement is reached, said G. Dale Wesson, UMES vice president for research and economic development.

“The project is planned to be installed and operational by the second quarter of 2014,” Wesson said. “As a research project, the full-scale production facility will have the ability to fully engage faculty and students in production-scale renewable energy generation research projects.”

UMES, through the Hawk Corp., research foundation, is negotiating the project with Eastern Shore Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Minneapolis-based National Renewable Solutions, Wesson said.

The wind project would boost UMES’ reputation as a recognized pioneer on the Eastern Shore in the promotion and use of renewable energy. In early 2011, the university activated a 2.2 megawatt solar farm across 17 acres of a former campus cornfield. At the time, campus officials called the 7,800-panel solar project one of the largest on an American college campus, generating enough power to serve 15 percent of the university’s electric needs during peak periods and 100 percent during the offseason.

UMES turbines would contribute toward a goal to increase Maryland’s renewable energy portfolio by 20 percent by 2022, thus reducing its dependency on fossil fuel. Turbines would have a total 4-megawatt capacity, adding to Maryland’s wind-power capacity installations that the American Wind Energy Association said is 120 megawatts to date. By comparison, Delaware has a 2-megawatt capacity of wind power, and the state of Virginia has none, according to the association’s market analysis.

The UMES project is in keeping with a University System of Maryland initiative to promote environmental stewardship and sustainable practices across the system. A University System of Maryland spokesman said recently that currently, there are no known wind turbines in operation on a system-operated campus.

Ronnie Holden, vice president of UMES Administrative Affairs, said that because the proposed turbines would be located on state-owned property, the project would not be subject to county approval.

Somerset County has a Small Wind Energy System ordinance in place for residential and other small turbine varieties. A county ordinance is pending for large-scale projects such as those proposed on private-owned farmland in the southwestern part of the county. By industry standards, small-scale wind power refers to up to 50 kilowatts of electrical power capacity, or .05 megawatts. A 2-megawatt capacity, as proposed for each UMES turbine, would have a capacity of 2,000 kilowatts.

Patrick Pelstring, who owns National Renewable Solutions, said discussions are working toward deciding ownership, size and a construction timetable. While the solar farm property is owned by the university, Sun Edison LLC owns and operates the solar farm.

“We need to find the most efficient and cost-effective structure to meet education needs and make financial sense,” Pelstring said. “Our goal is to make a good project for them and help them achieve direct benefits. This is supported by the university based on its interest in expanding the renewable energy curriculum, seeing the renewable facilities as a practical lab. We’re there to support it.”

An area on the far eastern side of the campus off College Backbone Road near John Wilson Lane has been considered for the turbines, Holden said. That same region houses the UMES solar farm, and is where ground broke Wednesday on a 166,000-square-foot classroom building that will house engineering and aviation sciences academic programs. Plans call for the building to be heated and cooled with geothermal energy.

Wesson said the university wants turbines “placed on the UMES campus.”

On average, wind energy grew nationwide 30 percent in the last five years, according to American Wind Energy Association. The 60,000 megawatts of wind capacity from installed turbines is far below the nation’s potential to produce 10 million megawatts of power from land-based turbines, the association said.

“When operational, the electricity developed by the wind turbines will be directly absorbed within the university’s electrical load, thereby reducing the university’s carbon footprint,” Wesson said. “In other words, at this time, we are not planning to sell power back to the power companies.”