The newly dedicated wind turbine at the Crain Memorial Welcome Center is capable of producing 10,500 to 42,000 kilowatts per year to power some of the center’s needs. (Tin Nguyen/Maryland Independent)

Colonial settlers on the Eastern Shore started a Maryland tradition of harnessing the wind’s energy to generate power.

Continuing the tradition, Charles County installed a 12-kilowatt vertical-axis wind turbine at the Crain Memorial Welcome Center in Newburg on Feb. 26.

Charles County commissioners, representatives from the Maryland Energy Administration and the Maryland Clean Energy Center, as well as a robotics team from Piccowaxen Middle School, were on hand to celebrate.

In opening comments, Candice Quinn Kelly (D), commissioners president, said that at one of the current board’s first meetings two years ago, Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) suggested installing a wind turbine. Robinson owns a turbine on his property in Swan Point.

Despite obstacles that inevitably come about when a government body attempts such a project, Kelly said, Robinson “never, ever gave up. When certain road blocks came up, he persevered.”

“We have to call him Kermit the Frog if he gets any greener on us,” said Kelly, who added that his fellow commissioners have taken to calling Robinson “the Wind Man.”

When Robinson spoke before the group of community members, students and local officials in the cold and rain, he said that some natural resources are finite, but wind is forever. He thanked the MEA and the MCEC for their support.

Kathy Magruder of the Clean Energy Center gave a brief history lesson about colonists on Maryland’s Eastern Shore harnessing wind energy to sail ships and grind grain. Now, the state’s visitors will be greeted by a nearly 120-foot symbol of that energy.

With a wind speed of 29 mph, the wind turbine can provide 105 kilowatt hours per year. The same energy could power about 10 homes per year.

The average annual wind speed in Charles is a little less than 20 mph, according to information compiled from the National Weather Service.

Most wind turbines are built with a horizontal axis and capture wind from only one direction, but a vertical-axis wind turbine is capable of capturing wind from all directions.

Kyle Haas, a clean-energy program manager for the MEA, said the wind turbine was funded by a grant and will be able to harness wind blowing off the Potomac River.

Haas said more similar green projects in the future will mean that, eventually, grant funding will no longer be necessary, because such projects will be the norm.

“We’re excited about the possibility of making this a destination point,” Charles County commissioners Vice President Reuben B. Collins II said of tying the installation of a wind turbine at the welcome center to a station for electric vehicle charging.

Collins said the commissioners started green initiatives together and the wind turbine at the state’s welcome center is a way to continue those initiatives while also “recognizing the county’s commitment to renewable energy.”

“I certainly saw this as something we all needed to support,” Collins said of the wind turbine’s installation.

The installation project took longer than it should have because a lot of people collaborate along the way and government guidelines tend to change frequently, All in Energy Solutions President Dwight Puckett said.

All in Energy Solutions was a partner with Wepower Eco Corp. in installing the turbine.

The wind turbine was in the planning stage for a year before any action was taken, but the installation took place in one day, Puckett said.

Puckett added that the original plan was to install two wind turbines.

Budget restrictions would allow for only one, said John Stevens, chief of capital services for the Charles County Department of Planning and Growth Management.

The turbine is owned by the county, but sits on state-owned property.

A grant of $16,400 from the MEA, $50,000 from the MCEC and some county money paid for the turbine.