Clean energy works for Maryland’s Eastern Shore

By Jeff Benzak

Take a drive this spring from Annapolis across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge into the heart of the Eastern Shore and you’re certain to see how clean energy works for Maryland.

There’s Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, where at its campus just off U.S. 50, the next generation of skilled Maryland workers are learning in classrooms a few yards from a towering 50-kilowatt wind turbine.

Further down the highway, steer right onto St. Michaels Road. Before crossing a short causeway near the Miles River, you’ll see a solar array the size of a football field cranking out clean, renewable, made-in-Maryland electricity for local consumers.

Get back on 50. Drive further south. Roll down the windows. In Talbot County, near Cambridge, you might cruise by long-time Eastern Shore farmer Mark Adams’ family spread.

Recently, Adams worked closely with OneEnergy Renewables – whose CEO, Bryce Smith, is a Maryland native and E2 member – to develop a solar array on 20 acres of his least-productive farmland.

Adams had experimented with other ways to profit off the 20 acres, including a nine-hole golf course. Solar made the most sense. Over the winter, dozens of workers installed long rows metals racks holding new solar arrays. For the next quarter-century, the project will generate lease payments for Adams and sell electricity to the National Aquarium in Baltimore at a fixed, easily predictable rate.

If Maryland’s legislators increase the state’s renewables standard to 25 percent by 2020, more projects like this could be developed on other Eastern Shore farms. In the process, our state legislators would do more than just help family farmers – they’d also create good, local jobs.

Watch this two-minute video showing why Adams felt solar made financial sense for his Eastern Shore farm:

Clearly, renewable energy projects like these make a lot of sense to practical farmers whose families have worked the land for generations. Supporting projects like these should also be a no-brainer for legislators in Annapolis who have the power – but need the will – to enact smarter energy policies that would expand, diversify, and modernize the Eastern Shore’s economy.

Consider some of the benefits:

  • The Maryland Energy Administration estimates the potential for land-based wind projects on the Eastern Shore alone is worth more than $1 billion. Plus, wind turbines on farms allow for continued production of local crops like soybean, winter wheat, and others.

 

  • The 800-plus individual solar projects currently installed on the Eastern Shore have a combined electric-generation capacity of about 40 megawatts. That hardly scratches the surface of Maryland’s vast potential. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, untapped solar potential on Maryland’s rural lands is 373,000 megawatts. That’s enough to power every home and business in Maryland – more than nine times over.

 

The list of benefits clean energy delivers to the Eastern Shore goes on. In Crisfield, for instance, a wind turbine being installed this year at the local wastewater treatment plant is expected to save the city nearly $3.5 million over the next two decades.

Without a doubt, clean energy is poised to jumpstart Maryland’s energy economy. The economic impact of more solar and wind on Maryland’s iconic Eastern Shore alone would be massive.

As Mark Adams proves, clean energy works for the Eastern Shore. To see more projects like his come online, legislators on the Eastern Shore – and all across Maryland – should vote “Yes” on the Maryland Clean Energy Advancement Act.

E2 press secretary Jeff Benzak is an Annapolis resident. He used to live in an old oysterman’s shack in St. Michaels.