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How to achieve energy goals without offshore wind Maryland's energy answers aren't blowing in the wind

April 17, 2011|By Jay Hancock

Tighter greenhouse-gas standards for cars. Lowering emissions ceilings for Maryland and nine other states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

How about increasing incentives for solar energy by making utilities pay higher prices when household users pump kilowatts back onto the grid? How about higher electric rates for households using over a certain number of kilowatts per month?

The state also needs new generation to replace coal plants, and Baltimore is pushing ahead in that area, too. It's generating 3 megawatts using sewage gas. Eventually the city could "easily" install other, small, natural gas-fired generators that would produce a total of 50 megawatts of capacity, Atwood says.

Natural gas emits 40 percent less carbon dioxide than coal and far fewer pollutants. For those who worry that "fracking" — hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas — is unsustainable, natural gas is a sensible alternative to coal even if fracking is outlawed or heavily regulated.

Maryland could have thousands of megawatts of new natural gas plants on line relatively soon if regulators made the right moves. There are also opportunities for onshore wind — much less expensive than the maritime variety.

If everybody focuses on one expensive offshore wind project delivering relatively little electricity, they could miss dozens of other chances.

jay.hancock@baltsun.com

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