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The Last House Falls on a Sinking Chesapeake Bay Island

Bay's First Wind Farm Would Rise More Than 40 Stories Tall.... But Project Has Question Marks

Turbine The construction of what could be the Chesapeake Bay’s first wind farm, on Naval Academy property next to Annapolis harbor, is likely at least five years off and is contingent upon wind testing that will begin later this month, according to a consultant who has worked with the Navy on the project.

Christopher Burgess, Chief Operating Officer of Annapolis-based Alpha Energy, said that five to eight turbines, each about 410 feet tall from tip to base, have been proposed on Greenbury Point beside the Severn River. The turbines could potentially produce 15 to 24 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the equivalent of 4,500 to 7,200 homes (during the right wind conditions).

A key question, however, is whether the wind is strong enough at this location to make the project viable. Greenbury Point already holds radio towers taller than 410 feet.

“A good port is not a windy site,” said Burgess. “That’s why it is a fairly marginal site. But as the technology gets better, and as the (turbine) heights get higher, it becomes more possible.”

Better locations for wind power on the Bay would be south of Crisfield, Maryland, or in Virginia’s waters, Burgess said.  His company is also talking to the city of Crisfield about the possibility of installing wind turbines.

“The Chesapeake Bay is pretty marginal as a wind resource, until you get down to the southern Chesapeake Bay,” he said.

But the wind farm on the Navy property could help the U.S. Department of Defense meet its goals of generating 25 percent of its power from alternative sources by 2020. When the weather conditions are right, the wind farm could theoretically power all of the Naval Academy campus, plus sell power into the grid.  Last week, Bay Daily reported that the Navy is considering the wind farm as one of a number of initiatives to try to reduce its dependence on petroleum.

Before the $25 million to $30 million project can be launched near Annapolis, the Navy plans to raise a wind monitoring tower and record wind speeds for 12 months to 18 months. That tower could go up later this month, although the date is not certain.

Also before construction, the would have to conduct an environmental assessment of the impact of the wind turbines -- a process which could take up to two years, Burgess said.

By Tom Pelton

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

 (Photo illustration of wind turbines at sea from iStockphoto.com)

Comments

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Despite the "question marks," this a wonderful step in the right direction for the Bay area.

As always, the first step in the road to reforming environmental policy is the responsibility of government and corporate officials.

This stride toward a more sustainable energy solution shows that the Bay area is ready to make alternative energy a priority.

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