''Offshore wind farms have the potential to provide Maryland with upwards of 50 percent of its energy,'' says the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club.
Because of federal tax credits and renewable-energy mandates in 29 states, wind farms in the U.S. are growing. The new focus is on offshore wind farms, as offshore winds are stronger and more consistent that onshore breezes.
Maryland, with the support of Gov. Martin O’Malley, has proposed the Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 (SB 275). The initial project would only power 61,600 Maryland homes, but the legislation has been touted as the first step in building extensive wind farms off the Maryland coast. Gov. O’Malley believes an off-shore wind farm industry would create thousands of new jobs. A $1.50 a month surcharge on Maryland utility customers would help pay for the first wind farm off Ocean City.
Because of better designs like longer blades and taller turbines, in addition to other new technology, wind farms are moving toward being cheaper to build than new coal or gas power stations. That is already the case in Australia, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Wind farms in Australia generate electricity at the equivalent U.S. dollar rate of $82.41 per megawatt-hour, whereas new coal plants there cost $181.30 per MWh.
While building coal-fired power stations remains relatively cheap in China, Brazilian government studies report contract bids for new wind farms over the past five years have been less that building new fossil-fueled power stations.
According to the Global Wind Energy Council in Brussels, the amount of wind capacity installed worldwide rose 19 percent in 2012.