Saving Money through Energy Conservation

October 17, 2009  This program presents the benefits of investing in energy audits for residences and farms, improving wind energy system effectiveness and provides an update on permitting Special Exception Procedures

Wind on Farm 2

Preserving the financial viability of the Maryland Farm is a goalof the EnSave Program;  the program works to make farm operations energy efficient.  ENSAVE: Statewide Farm Energy Audit and Rebate Program:  http://www.ensave.com/assets/files/Application%20for%20Equipment%20Rebates%204.22.09.pdf

Presenters include:

Carlos Fernandez, Jr. Potomac Wind Energy, used a Power Point Program to show how to find the optimal location to install a wind turbine.  He also discussed permitting processes and the value of  understanding Wind Energy Power Curves.  Power curves help potential investors in wind energy systems compare the ratings, and likely effectiveness, of various wind turbines.

Fernandez said, “small-wind technologies have improved a lot in the last several years.  At the right location, our local wind resources may be sufficient to significantly replace the power you’d otherwise have to purchase from the electric company.”

Jim McKenna, president of GreenStepToday Home Energy Efficiency is a Maryland Certified Energy Auditor who is also a member of the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board.  Jim  will discuss Home Energy Savings for Every Season  to help reduce your energy costs and maintain your comfort.   He said, “one of the most important investments you can make is correcting air-leaks and improving insulation in your home.”   In several residential energy audits he has conducted, he discovered gaps in attics and crawl spaces that, when left un-filled, result in drafts, discomfort and, a costly loss of energy.   McKenna said, “the best dollar spent is the dollar preventing the loss of the indoor heating and cooling you’re paying for.”    McKenna showed a power point of the most-likely places in a typical residence where unwanted air transfers occur.  He showed an attic in which years ago the insulation may have been adequate…but now, with years of compression and settling, it is insufficient to do the job and should be replaced.  Jim emphasized COMFORT, asking us all to consider where are the “cold spots” in our homes…and hunting to find the source of the drafts.

There are new Federal home energy improvement tax credits available offering  an additional incentive for home owners to develop a check list and make the most important changes in 2009 or 2010.   The web site, Energy Star is loaded with suggestions, tips and resources for  home owners who would like to make energy modifications and apply for Federal tax credits.  Go to www.energystar.gov.

Rebecca Rush, Renewable Energy Stewardship introduced the Farm Energy Audit process  as a way to help farm operators reduce costs.

Rebecca Rush representing Renewable Energy Stewardship, Inc and the host non-profit organization shared that a new program is now available for working farms and growers in Maryland.  This program provides rebates on the purchase of certain operating equipment that reduces energy consumption.   The program called “EnSave” offers farms an energy audit, too, for $300.  The EnSave Farm-Operations Energy Audit is  available through the Maryland Energy Administration.

Even without requiring an energy audit Maryland’s  EnSave program offers incentives (rebates)  of the value of $0.06 per kilowatt hour of electricity you save for any qualifying lighting projects, $0.08 per kilowatt hour saved for all other eligible electric projects, and $1.50 per gallon of propane saved for any eligible propane projects. The incentives cannot exceed 50% of the total project cost.   In one case study, the purchase of new lighting for a farm had a payback period of less than 1 year and will, for the life of the bulbs, save money.

There are even new farm loan-programs designed to provide the capital needed to make the energy-savings improvements.  “Maryland is one of the states in the vanguard, helping farm operators reduce their power costs.”

Below is an outline of what it takes to obtain a Maryland Energy Administration WINDSWEPT GRANT and what’s needed generally for a local wind-energy permit.

Maryland Energy Administration’s Wind Swept Grant for Wind Energy Systems

Local Ordinances and Permits Required

In order for  any applicant to receive funds from Maryland Energy Administration’s Windswept Grant program, the applicant must provide proof of obtaining a permit for construction.

Carroll County was the State’s leader in providing a permitting system for small-wind energy devices in 2008.   There are links BELOW to the Windswept Grants and to the County Ordinances.

Wind Turbine Permit Application Procedures:

First, it is important to work through a dealer who has been certified to sell and trained to install and maintain the wind turbine.  Wind turbine installation detailed engineering packages are provided by the manufacturer through your vendor.   Most people contract with the seller/vendor to handle the construction and installation processes that they have been trained to manage.

However, in all cases, the applications for permit will require the following:

  1. Site Plan Drawing – a copy of a certified survey of the farm is required with a drawing indicating where the wind turbine will likely be placed.  For community safety purposes, this site must generally be such that the total height of the wind turbine tower plus the tip of the blade is well-back from any land border.
  2. Engineering drawing certified by a Maryland Civil Engineer attesting to the site plan safety and durability.   There are guidelines with each wind turbine model defining the depth and dimensions of the concrete “pad”, the footing reinforced with rebar to which the wind turbine tower will be attached.
  3. Fees.  There are non-refundable permitting fees in each County.  There is a fee for the special exception process in Montgomery County.

Special Exemptions for Farm Installations?

A question was asked at our first program.  Farm operations are generally permitted to install operationally-critical equipment that may be in excess of 50′ tall.  Take, for instance, a silo, or a grain-separator system.  So the question was asked…isn’t this wind turbine for farm-use and therefore exempt from the excess-height criteria?

The initial answer in Montgomery County is that the wind energy system is NOT today considered integral to the farm’s operations, must be considered an “accessory structure” and comply with those height rules.

In the Counties with permits, the maximum height is 150′ and this project’s desired height of 80′ would comply.

Working in Montgomery County:

Montgomery County codes are silent with respect to defining and affirmatively permitting a small-wind energy system and refers an applicant to comply with the Accessory Structure requirements in the building code.  This code specifies a maximum 50′ height of any  “accessory structure” which the wind turbine is being considered.

Potomac Wind Energy of Dickerson (Frederick County.) has sold and installed two small-wind energy systems in Montgomery County on towers 30′ tall.  Applications for permits has been handled by Dr. Carlos Fernandez.

According to Dr. Fernandez, he’s spent many hours waiting in Rockville’s permitting lines to obtain permits for the turbines.  One is installed near Poolesville and the other near Clarksburg.

Each of these installations has been on a 30′ tower and use a wind energy system rated at 2.7 Kw.       Each installed system qualified the owner for a Maryland Energy Administration WindSwept Grant of approximately $6,000.