Credits offer wind power without backyard turbine

MARYLAND - Maryland residents who lack the wind, the will or the wherewithal to put wind turbines in their backyard can still buy green power, often in a more convenient way and at a lower cost.

Clean Currents, based in Rockville, has been offering green power — defined as renewable energy credits and green electricity — for three years and it's become cheaper than regular utility rates.

"Usually renewable energy requires an upfront investment, but we're in a unique situation where you can choose green power and save money at the same time," said Gary Skulnik, Clean Currents' president. "It almost never happens."

That unique situation came about because of cheaper wholesale energy prices that Clean Currents and other companies have used to their advantage because many utility companies haven't dropped rates to reflect the change in wholesale costs.

Clean Currents sells credits to about 3,000 Maryland homes within BGE and Pepco service areas and D.C.

residents can also buy credits from Pepco. Those rates are still slightly higher than regular rates.

Carlos Fernandez-Bueno has sold wind turbines to residential customers, such as Ken Robinson and Sheryll Elliott of Clarks Landing, for installation in their backyard. But he said renewable energy credits are a good option for most people.

Robinson wanted to provide his own electricity so he could be satisfied he wasn't contributing to pollution from a power plant across Cuckold Creek from his house. In winter time, his wind turbine provides more power than he uses and Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative pays him for what his wind turbine's generated.

"I'm jealous," said Julie Klingenstein, a neighbor of Robinson's. "Maybe they'll share some of their electricity with all that money they're saving."

Fernandez-Bueno didn't sell any wind turbines in Maryland in 2008 despite selling 85 around the country. Robinson's installation of a wind turbine took 18 months because the zoning board didn't have a proper form to apply for a permit to build a wind turbine in Charles County.

Pepco spokesman Robert Dobkin did warn customers that some renewable energy companies struggle to stay afloat and have to cut or reduce programs.

The Mid-Atlantic grid receives the wind power from turbines in Texas and other states. Skulnik said the number of people signing up for green power has grown significantly from last year.

"There's no cost to you, you don't have to install any equipment and it takes less than five minutes on a Web site," Skulnik said. "There's no excuse not to do it."


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