Maryland has put protecting the environment at the forefront of its mission. While it’s a big challenge, this state is up for it. They are developing alternative energy sources, reducing harmful emissions, and generating a cleaner and brighter future–all while creating jobs at the same time. What does it take to do all this?
- Many academic research brains
- A high-tech workforce
- Governmental commitment
And Maryland has it all! To prove it, here are some interesting numbers. While Maryland is only 12,407 square miles and ranks 19th in population, it:
- Is 1st in STEM job concentration
- Is 1st in employed geographers
- Is 2nd in percentage of professional and technical workers
- Has funded $3B+ for bay restoration since 2015
- Has 1,280 energy and sustainability businesses
So what is Maryland up to now? Capitalizing on one of its greatest resources . . . wind. Maryland’s first offshore wind energy center is big news for the state, its clean energy goals, and its economy.
Spring Power & Gas (an innovative and eco-focused leader in the energy retail industry) provides more information about and context for this exciting announcement.
Announcing Maryland’s Wind Energy Center
The announcement of the state’s first offshore wind energy center was made July 23, 2019 with Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, state and local officials, and representatives from partnering companies all in attendance.
“This new center will create good-paying jobs, leverage Tradepoint Atlantic’s outstanding location and logistical assets, and put Maryland on the map as a global offshore wind industry hub. We are proud to work with Tradepoint Atlantic to make clean energy the newest chapter in the storied history of the Sparrows Point site as we pursue our vision of a world that runs entirely on green energy.” -Clause Møller, Chief Operating Officer of Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind
Officially located in Baltimore County at Sparrows Point (19.5 miles off the Maryland coast), the site will contain 50 acres for a staging center. It will create 1,400 jobs in Maryland, “including 913 jobs measured in full-time equivalents during development and construction and 484 jobs during operation.”
Improvements to the site will cover “strengthening ground bearing capacity at the port to allow heavy-lift cranes and specialized transporters to move wind turbine components, some weighing as much as 2,000 tons, from ships onto the site.”
The wind energy center is expected to “provide enough clean energy to power 35,000 homes.”
What Is Wind Energy and How Does It Work?
At its most simple definition, wind energy refers to the use of wind turbines to capture the kinetic energy and generate electricity. The largest source of wind is offshore in large bodies of water, and turbines are generally erected on the continental shelf. The turbines used in this scenario are huge and generate large amounts of power.
How Wind Turbines Work
When the wind blows past a wind turbine, its blades capture the kinetic energy and rotate. The rotation turns the kinetic energy into mechanical energy by turning an internal shaft that is connected to a gearbox. This action increases the speed of rotation by a factor of 100, which then spins a generator that produces electricity.
When a large number of wind turbines are built close together, it is called a wind farm (or wind project) which functions as a single power plant that sends the gathered electricity to the main power grid. Once it’s there, electric utilities or power operators send the electricity to homes.
Utility-scale wind turbines boast rotors that measure more than 250 feet in diameter and exceed 1.5 megawatts in generating capacity. They:
- Are state-of-the-art
- Are highly efficient
- Operate with exceptionally high availability rates
- Generate cost-competitive electricity at power plant scales
The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy explains:
“Because of their size and the scale of the installations, utility-scale wind turbines require environmental, utility, and public coordination at the highest levels. Utility-scale wind farms require exacting resource assessments, legal and financial due diligence, utility integration, and financing typical of very large capital investments installations…”
When expressed in such a way, we can begin to understand why Maryland’s Wind Energy Center announcement is such a notable achievement!
The Advantages of Wind Energy
There are plenty of advantages of wind energy. Wind is a free renewable resource. Even though wind power technology requires a higher initial investment (80% of which goes to the cost of machinery) compared to fossil-fueled generators, the life-cycle cost is much more competitive with other power generating technologies. This is due to the minimal operating expenses and lack of need to purchase fuel.
Another important advantage is that wind energy is a source of clean electricity, unlike conventional power plants that emit air pollutants or greenhouse gases. For the years 2017-2018, the “U.S. offshore wind development pipeline contains more than 25,000 megawatts of potential capacity across 13 states.” That’s a lot of decreased pollutants and gases!
Other significant advantages of wind energy are that it:
Creates thousands of long-term, high-paying jobs.
Helps to diversify the national energy portfolio and helps reduce America’s reliance on imported fossil fuels.
Does not consume water and has been estimated to reduce power-sector water consumption by 36.5 billion gallons.
While these advantages are certainly significant, the Wind Vision Report has its sights set very high for the future. By the year 2050, it is estimated that wind energy will:
- Be a viable source of renewable electricity in all 50 states.
- Support over 600,000 jobs in manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and support services.
- Save consumers $280 billion.
- Avoid the emission of over 250,000 metric tons of air pollutants and 12.3 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases.
- Save 260 billion gallons of water that would have been used by the electric power sector.
- Collect $3.2 billion annually in additional tax revenue from land lease payments and property taxes.
Two Other Energy Innovations in Maryland
The wind energy center isn’t Maryland’s only recent energy innovation. Here are two other major innovations that are changing the way clean energy is researched, developed, and expanded.
Maryland Energy Innovation Accelerator (MEIA)
The recent launch of the Maryland Energy Innovation Accelerator (MEIA) is helping to deliver on the mission to assist energy-related research and technology efforts.
The MEIA combines the expertise of inventors, researchers, founders, and entrepreneurs with strategic partners, local business executives, and service providers. These partnerships will further advance clean energy technology and create “new, investible clean energy businesses.”
It can also support the following:
- Energy efficiency
- Grid modernization
- Carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS)
- Any other technology that reduces greenhouse gas emissions
- Any other technology that provides negative emissions benefits in the electric, oil and gas, residential, commercial, or other industrial sectors
Maryland Energy Innovation Institute (MEII)
The Maryland Energy Innovation Institute (MEII) provides “a platform to catalyze basic research into new technology while stimulating economic growth and improving millions of lives across the state of Maryland.” This lofty goal is achieved by bringing together science, industry, government, and economic leaders to develop, facilitate, and market new energy technologies.
What Can You Do to Support Wind Energy?
The Department of Energy reports 285 current offshore wind energy projects in the United States, so you can expect a lot more innovation to come.
Maryland is certainly trying to do its part, but what can you do personally to support wind energy and other types of clean energy? First of all, learn about it! There is so much interesting information out there and so many conversations to be a part of that it’s worth some time to delve right into the facts.
Other things you can do include:
- Support smaller-scale wind energy projects in your community.
- Donate to the Ecogold Environmental Fund.
- Become a member of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
- Choose an environmentally conscious energy plan
Currently, about 6% of the nation’s electricity is supplied by wind energy. In 2008, the goal set was to reach 20% by the year 2030. With everyone’s help, that number may become a reality!