Wind energy is a fully domestic source of energy and one of Maryland’s greatest homegrown and natural sources of energy. And like solar energy, wind energy relies on a renewable power source that can’t be exhausted.
Wind energy is totally clean, requiring no combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, and wind turbines don't produce atmospheric emissions that cause acid rain or greenhouse gasses.
How It Works
In reality, wind is a derivative form of solar energy, since the sun warms the atmosphere unevenly. Wind is created as heat flows from hotter areas to cooler areas and from high pressure systems to lower pressure systems around the earth’s surface. Wind energy taps into this natural process and harnesses it to make power.
Wind power is derived from wind spinning a turbine that produces electricity. Wind power generation does not produce any emissions and has been a proven, efficient technology for decades across the globe, but especially in coastal Northern Europe, where wind energy utilization accounts for a huge percentage of overall power generation.
Types of Wind Power Generation
Large land-based wind farms use wind turbines that have a capacity of 2–3.5 MW. In our region, wind farms typically have 10 to 50 turbines, which are usually sited on high ridge lines. Most of Maryland’s land-based wind sites are located in the mountains of western Maryland.
Offshore wind is wind power produced by turbines placed off the shore in shallow water. Offshore wind typically produces more power than land-based wind because the turbines are larger and the wind is more consistent over the water.
Community wind is much smaller in scale, with turbines that are no bigger than 50 kilowatts (kW), and can be designed with only one or a couple of turbines.
Wind in Maryland
As any Chesapeake Bay boater knows, Maryland has plenty of wind for power. Winds make the Bay one of the premier sailing destinations in the country, and small wind generators on boats of all kinds help supply power for living and working on the vessel. The greatest potential for wind in Maryland lies offshore in the Atlantic Ocean, and on the ridgebacks of the Appalachian Mountains.
According to data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Maryland’s onshore wind potential at 80 meters hub height is 1,483 MW, and Maryland’s offshore wind potential at 90 meters hub height is 53,782 MW.
Wind energy is already boosting revenue for landowners in western Maryland and could bring manufacturing jobs to the state when offshore wind projects move forward. At the end of 2013, Maryland had 120 MW of wind capacity installed, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Project siting issues have limited significantly more land-based wind capacity from coming online in Maryland, but states along the Eastern seaboard from Rhode Island to Virginia are now collaborating to make an offshore electric grid a reality in the future. Developing the infrastructure required for utility-scale offshore wind will require the political will, the efforts, and the resources of multiple states working together instead of duplicating efforts. Development of utility-scale wind capacity in Northern Europe is already meeting as much as 45% of electricity needs in countries such as Denmark. This is a proven, reliable technology, and favorable state and federal energy policy is now the primary hurdle to full scale development in Maryland and the rest of the coastal U.S.
After first being proposed in 2008, the very first off-shore wind farm in the nation, the Deepwater Wind project off Block Island, Rhode Island, is now under construction.
Wind Power Trends
Compiled by AWEA for their 2014 U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report
- Wind Jobs Regained - Wind energy jobs that were lost in 2013, due to PTC (Federal Production Tax Credit) uncertainty, rebounded in 2014 to 73,000 jobs nationwide.
- Wind Installations Rebound -The 4,854 MW of wind capacity added during 2014 was more than four times the amount installed in 2013. Additionally, there are more than 12,700 MW of wind capacity currently under construction and an additional 5,000 MW of wind capacity with long-term power purchase agreements that had not started construction by the end of 2014.
- Wind Benefits Every State - There are utility-scale wind projects or active wind-related manufacturing facilities in all 50 states. Over 70 percent of U.S. Congressional districts have operational wind energy projects or active wind-related manufacturing facilities.
- Costs Plummet - The cost of wind energy dropped over 50 percent between 2009 and 2013, with the industry continuing to advance technology in several areas.
- Top Source of New Generation - Wind energy was the largest source of new generation in the U.S. between 2011-2014.
- Corporations Want Wind - Over 23% of the MW contracted through 2014 power purchase agreements were with non-utility off-takers including Amazon, Microsoft, the General Services Administration (GSA), Walmart and Yahoo!
- Carbon and Water Savings Greater Than Previously Thought - Wind energy production avoided an estimated 125 million metric tons of carbon dioxide during 2014 – more than 5.7 percent of U.S. power sector emissions – while avoiding the consumption of over 68 billion gallons of water.
- New Areas Open for Development - Texas is currently undergoing a wind boom thanks to the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone network of new transmission lines. That success will soon be replicated in other areas.
- New Wind Records Show Reliability -Three states (Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas) now reliably generate more than 20 percent of their electricity from wind power.
- U.S. Leads the World in Wind - The U.S. leads the world in wind energy generation, producing over 181 billion kWh of wind energy during 2014.
Why Use Wind Power?
How Do Wind Power Systems Work?
Will Wind Power Work Well at My Home?
How Much Do Wind Power Systems Cost?
How Much Will I Save on My Electric Bill?
Are There Incentives and Financing Opportunities?
Where Can I Find a Wind Power Contractor?
Why Support Wind Power?
Although wind’s greatest potential lies in large regional installations, by investing in a small wind system for your home, farm, or business, you can reduce pollution, reduce future energy costs, and increase your own energy independence.
If you are building a home in a remote location, a small wind energy system can help you avoid the high costs of extending utility power lines to your site. When combined with a solar system, a wind turbine can generate power at night when your solar PV panels do not.
Also, simply purchasing wind generated power through your electricity supplier supports the industry and makes that power cost less for everyone.
All wind systems consist of a wind turbine, a tower, wiring, and supporting components: controllers, inverters, and/or batteries. Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy in the wind into mechanical power, like operating a water pump or a granary on a farm. A generator then converts this mechanical power into electricity.
Anatomy of a Wind Turbine
Home wind turbines consist of a rotor, a generator mounted on a frame, and (usually) a tail.
- The rotor captures the energy from the spinning blades to drive the generator. How much energy a turbine will produce depends on the diameter of the rotor, which determines how much wind can be captured by the turbine.
- The frame is the strong central axis bar onto which the rotor, generator, and tail are attached.
- The tail keeps the turbine facing into the wind.
Towers raise the turbine to a height where ground turbulence won’t interfere with its operation. “The higher the tower, the greater the power,” since wind speeds increase with altitude. A general rule of thumb is to install a wind turbine on a tower with the bottom of the rotor blades at least 30 feet above any obstacle that is within 300 feet of the tower.
Stand-alone systems require batteries and charge controllers to store excess power generated for use when the wind is calm.
Grid-connected systems require only an inverter that makes the turbine output electrically compatible with the utility grid. No batteries are needed.
Deciding whether to purchase a wind system is complicated, and there are many factors to consider. With the right location, a wind energy system delivers cost-effective, clean, and reliable electricity.
Wind turbines are more difficult to permit than other renewable power sources. Be sure to research potential legal and environmental obstacles in your area. If you plan to connect the wind generator to your local utility grid, find out its requirements for connecting and buying power before you move ahead.
The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) provides an anemometer loan program to help property owners quantify and characterize the wind resources available at their property.
Small wind energy systems can be applied for residential use in two ways:
Grid-Connected Systems use a small wind turbine in conjunction with electricity. Excess energy generated by the turbine allows you to send energy back into the power grid automatically as it’s generated. These systems are best suited for areas with high electric utility costs – and where local codes allow turbines:
- Average annual wind speeds of at least 10 miles per hour;
- Utility-supplied electricity costs 10 to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour or more where you live and requirements for connecting renewable power to the grid are not expensive;
- Local building codes and neighborhood covenants allow you to legally place a wind turbine on your property.
Stand-Alone Systems are wind installations that are not connected to a public utility. These systems are suited for homes, farms, or entire communities that are far from utility lines and would otherwise require expensive hook-ups to the grid:
- Average annual wind speeds of at least 9 miles per hour;
- Grid connections are not available or can only be made through an expensive extension;
- Supplementary systems or resources exist for dealing with the intermittent nature of wind and ensuring consistent power supply.
Wind turbine manufacturers can provide you with the expected annual energy output of the turbine as a function of annual average wind speed. The manufacturer will also provide information on the maximum wind speed in which the turbine is designed to operate safely. Most turbines have automatic speed-governing systems to keep the rotor from spinning out of control in very high winds. This information, along with your local wind speed distribution and your energy budget, is sufficient to allow you to specify turbine size.
Costs for wind power systems vary greatly depending on factors such as turbine size, tower construction and if you are able to install components of the system yourself. Some wind power kits cost as little as $6,000 while fully installed systems might run $65,000. But don’t get sticker shock! Many cities and counties in Maryland offer low or no interest loans and property tax incentives for the purchase of wind power systems. Rebates, tax credits, and exemptions are available from the Federal and state governments too.
Savings can run from 50% to 90% of traditional electrical systems depending on the specifics of your system. And each year you save more by avoiding increases in fossil fuel costs.
Check our Financing and Incentives pages for information specific to:
A credible wind power installer will provide many services such as permitting. Find out if the installer can provide a list of references and ask the following questions when looking for a wind contractor:
- Are they licensed as a Maryland Home Improvement Contractor, electrician, HVAC, or plumbing contractor?
- Does the contractor offer energy audit services or will you need another contractor?
- What kind of site analysis and consultation services does the contractor offer prior to installation?
- Does the contractor do both stand-alone and grid-connected wind electrical systems?
- How many installations have they done over the lifetime of the company and in the last year?
- What kind of certifications does their staff hold? Is someone on the staff certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP)?
- How will they help you with incentive and grant funding applications?
- Does the contractor only install the system or do they also provide maintenance?
- Are they a national organization or local to the state?
Use the MCEC Business Directory to identify Maryland companies who specialize in residential wind installations.
- Maryland has few fossil fuel energy resources, but we have utility scale wind resources. In fact, in terms of meeting the 20% renewable energy goal for 2020, Maryland’s most significant opportunity lies in wind installations of this scale.
- Augmenting power consumption with wind power would reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutants such as mercury, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.
- Wind energy is 100% renewable and completely free of emissions, and can offset demand for coal and gas-fired electricity, reducing emissions – and reducing costs.
- Wind energy can increase manufacturing jobs and boost revenues to landowners
- Meeting an increased demand for wind power requires an increase in manufacturing – potential for Maryland to capitalize on its workforce and strategic location.
- Maryland is already home to innovative wind companies such as Skystream and Clean Currents.