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UMBC to measure wind at offshore turbine site

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Maryland Energy Administration are teaming to compile wind speed and directional data to aid the state’s offshore wind energy program.

The $890,000, three-year deal will collect data at the proposed site for an offshore wind farm, at least 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City. The measurements will be used to establish baseline data for the potential project while allowing UMBC researchers to perfect the process.

The data will be collected through light detection and ranging technology, also called LIDAR, which uses lasers to measure the speed, power and direction of airborne particles carried by wind.

The method is expected to collect more detailed data than traditional tools used to measure offshore wind — large meteorological towers driven into the seabed.

“LIDAR remote sensing is an efficient and economical alternative that allows us to measure winds across several heights, from the ocean surface to above the full height of the tallest turbines built,” said Ruben Delgado, a UMBC researcher.

The General Assembly approved legislation this year to subsidize the development of offshore wind in Maryland through electricity rate increases.

The bill, signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley in April, requires potential developers to submit proposals that hold businesses’ monthly electricity bill increase to 1.5 percent. The average residential ratepayer could see a $1.50 increase. The increase would not take place until turbines start spinning — 2017 at the earliest.

In a statement, MEA Acting Director Abigail Ross Hopper said the partnership with UMBC would help maximize the impact of offshore wind energy.

“The research gathered by this partnership will allow our state to reap the economic and environmental, clean energy benefits of offshore wind,” she said.