New Windsor, MD – Are more wind farms coming to a Maryland beach near you? This March, environmental activists, energy companies, and Democratic legislators have been pushing for a bill that would increase the state’s renewable energy standards to 50 percent by 2030. That standard would rise to 100 percent by 2040, and supporters believe it would add a significant number of jobs within the renewable energy sector.
According to The Baltimore Sun, the measure — Senate Bill 516 and House Bill 1158 — will also require legislators to conduct research in order to assess the costs and advantages of increasing renewable energy standards. Additionally, the bill would add a 1,200-megawatt requirement for offshore wind energy.
In 2017, the Clean Energy Jobs Act committed Maryland to a 25 percent renewable energy target. So far, Republican Governor Larry Hogan has not endorsed the act, although he has spoken generally about the importance of taking action to fight climate change.
How would updates to the Clean Energy Jobs Act affect Maryland residents?
Although previous updates to the Clean Energy Jobs Act stalled out in committee, some stakeholders in Maryland are already preparing for the possible effects of Senate Bill 516 and House Bill 1158.
The new legislation would substantially increase Maryland’s offshore wind capacity, which could have major implications for towns on Maryland’s coast. In Ocean City, the Ocean City Dispatch reports that local officials have engaged in a “prolonged letter writing and petition campaign” to lobby two energy companies building offshore wind farms near Ocean City. Officials want to ensure that the giant wind turbines aren’t visible to tourists and residents.
Many homeowners are also concerned about the impact large wind turbines could have on their property values. The average home for sale is purchased within three weeks, but that process can take six to 12 months in some markets. While research is mixed on the effect wind farms have on home values, residents of Maryland coastal towns are understandably nervous about giant new wind turbines towering over their beaches.
A representative for US Wind, one of the companies planning a project near Ocean City, testified to Maryland lawmakers that, if passed, the bills could create 5,000-7,000 wind energy jobs. To satisfy local stakeholders, US Wind has said it will place wind turbines 17 miles away from the Maryland shoreline.
The representative, US Wind manager Salvo Vitale, urged lawmakers to pass the bills to help prepare Maryland for the green energy market of the future.
“With only 358 megawatts currently available for development here in our state and no further incentive to develop more, Maryland risks ceding its leadership position as other states along the eastern seaboard move aggressively to increase the proportion that offshore wind energy accounts for in their own state renewable energy goals.”
Maryland prepares to enter an expanding wind energy sector
As U.S. legislators debate a Green New Deal, wind energy advocates in Maryland see a major economic opportunity in updating the Clean Energy Jobs Act. Today, there are roughly 400,000 active wind turbines across the globe, and the new pair of energy bills could triple Maryland’s wind energy production.
In addition to constructing and operating wind farms, simply producing wind turbines requires considerable labor. In order to limit turbine erosion, researchers and manufacturers are searching for innovative new approaches to focus on improved efficiencies. Since particles as small as salt can attach themselves to turbine blades and attract other particles like dirt, they can actually decrease a turbine’s power output by as much as 15 percent. Currently, industrial protective coatings can be used to protect equipment from rust and erosion. Environmentally friendly powder coatings now make up 15 percent of the global protective coatings market, in part because of the demand for environmentally friendly solutions. To withstand the corrosive open ocean environment, marine equipment also relies on metals such as Marine Grade Stainless Steel. This is a type of alloy that contains the element molybdenum, which has a melting point of 4,748 degrees Fahrenheit.
Across the Pacific Ocean, a startup was recently awarded $170,000 grant to help detect wind turbine blade damage, which if proven successful could replace or reduce the amount of drones and maintenance crews that deal with turbine issues after a problem has already occurred. The Ping Monitor utilizes aero-acoustic analysis to help continually detect any kind of damage sustained to a wind turbine.
“With the trend of building larger machines continuing, greater research is required to provide more protection for wind turbine blades against rain erosion,” said Steffen Laustsen, head of Blade Materials, Offshore Technology at Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy.
Globally, there are about 3,800 turbine blade failures each year that end up costing about $5 billion in damage.
In addition to high-tech aero-acoustic approach to turbine damage detection, load cells and torque sensors — which can operate in temperature ranges between -452 degrees Fahrenheit to 450 degrees Fahrenheit — are still widely utilized, as well.
Some of the world’s largest wind farms rely on load cell sensors to keep their turbines operate at optimal performance by increasing reliability and reducing downtime. These load cells can measure vibration, bolt tightness, torque, strain, noise, and so many more aspects of turbine performance.
“Increasing the performance of wind turbines and blades is crucial for the transition to a cleaner energy system,” added Rich Barnes, Executive Vice President at DNV GL. “Erosion of blades is affecting the global wind industry.”
Is wind the future of Maryland green energy?
As solar energy-related jobs in Maryland decline, green energy advocates are looking to wind power. Even if the updates to the Clean Energy Jobs Act fail, wind farms already in the works could have major economic benefits.
According to the Maryland Energy Administration, in addition to creating thousands of jobs, the two Ocean City wind farms in development will generate more than electricity — they will generate $2 billion worth of economic activity in the state. The projects will have a capacity of 368 megawatts.
The new bills would require Maryland to acquire 1,200 megawatts of wind energy by 2030.