Maryland’s Newest Beach Attraction

offshore wind farm maryland

Liz Scanlon, Marketing Intern

With the summer months come long, hot, sunny days. For most Mid-Atlantic residents, myself included, that can only mean one thing: A trip to the beach. Whether you’re visiting Ocean City’s lively boardwalk or the wild ponies and untouched coastlines of Assateague, the area’s beaches have much to offer. Pretty soon they’ll be able to add one more thing to that list: renewable energy.

Last winter, Maryland legislature passed a movement to auction off 80,000 acres of the Outer Continental Shelf, located roughly 10 miles off the shore of Ocean City, for the development of an offshore wind farm. The designated area, accompanied by high speed and constant winds, has the potential to generate approximately 1,000 megawatts of energy. According to Interior Secretary Sally Jewel that would would be enough energy to power 300,000 homes. The project is still in its early stages, but the auction is set to take place sometime later in 2014. Many companies have submitted bids to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), including Dominion Resources Inc. of Richmond, VA.  Maryland hopes the move will position the state as a national front runner in wind energy power generation.

Maryland isn’t the only East Coast state to pursue wind power. In fact, the Cape Wind project, off the shore of Cape Cod, MA, is due to finalize it’s financing stages in the latter half of this year, with construction starting shortly thereafter. The turbines are estimated to be up and running within the next few years, which would make Cape Wind the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. Though the process has taken over a decade to set in motion, it’s a promising sign for the advancement of wind technologies in the U.S. Offshore wind projects are also underway in Rhode Island and Virginia.

Offshore wind technologies are especially sought after in coastal states because of their high productivity. While man-made and natural lanscapes diffuse the wind that powers landlocked turbines, uninhabited oceanic winds are capable of higher velocity and greater consistency. The difference is more important than you’d think. According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, BOEM, the energy produced by wind is the cube of the wind speed (basically, the wind speed multiplied by itself three times). Even minor differences in wind speed can result in major energy generation advantages for offshore wind farms. Additionally, the constant improvement of wind technologies makes marine wind farms a highly favorable alternative.

So what does that mean for your next beach visit? Well, nothing quite yet. Maryland has a little ways to go before it’s the international leader in offshore wind farming. But with Maryland’s government taking the right steps forward, it’s entirely possible that in a few years we’ll see little wind turbines far off in the distance as we soak up the rays.