James Madison University

Tangier Island


The Town of Tangier is a small, remote island near the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Tangier Island is one of many islands located in between mainland Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula. The island has a surface area of only a quarter of a square mile and has an elevation of around 1 meter above sea level.

Offshore Wind Speed

As the wind map pictured below indicates, the wind resources are quite generous throughout the Chesapeake Bay region, especially on the water. The legend in the bottom right corner of this figure presents average annual wind speeds at 90 meters above ground (or sea) level.

Offshore Wind Speed

90-meter offshore wind speeds in Virginia.
Source: windpoweringamerica.gov

Tangier Island has been the subject of study for its potential for wind power production by the Center for Wind Energy (CWE) for several years. These studies are described within a series of undergraduate senior theses conducted under the supervision of the Center for Wind Energy (CWE). The focus of these efforts has been largely to gain an increased understanding of the wind resource in the Chesapeake Bay region by conducting measurements and performing regional wind analyses, feasibility studies, preliminary siting analyses, and assisting in the development phase of renewable energy projects.

In 2007, an initial feasibility study of the potential for wind power on Tangier Island was performed. This project considered the technical viability of constructing a wind turbine on the island in light of ongoing military, fishing, and wildlife activities in the area. This project considered public opinion, jurisdictions, physical resources, environmental impacts, technical infrastructure, wind resources, and options for development. The feasibility of installing a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine on Tangier Island was examined.

In 2009, a more specific preliminary siting study was performed that analyzed the existing energy infrastructure, local wind resources, environmental and siting considerations, financial options, and regulatory matters. The project resulted in a plan for the installation of a 50-meter meteorological (MET) tower on the island to measure wind speeds and directions directly to determine the potential for commercial wind development. The location of the MET tower that was ultimately installed on Port Isobel in 2010 is shown on the Google map below as well as a proposed turbine location adjacent to the airport.

MET Tower image via Google Earth

The MET tower relative to turbine location. Image from Google Earth. 37°49’35.25” N and 75°59’09.36” W.

In 2010, a coastal Virginia wind analysis was performed by installing several MET towers in the region in and around the Chesapeake Bay by leveraging the State Based Anemometer Loan Program (SBALP) which is administered by the CWE. The energy infrastructure was studied for potential interconnection of a wind turbine and associated energy storage equipment. Other considerations included impacts on the environment and wildlife, siting concerns, project economics, regulatory, and public acceptance issues. The results of this project helped to inform a project proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy for funding further research, development, and demonstration of commercial-scale wind in the Chesapeake Bay region.

In 2011, a study was performed that examined the feasibility of a community-scale wind turbine on Tangier Island. This effort included wind resource analysis, siting and development efforts, potential avian impacts, and local permitting issues. In 2013, a comprehensive wind resource analysis using data recorded from the meteorological tower was performed; the resulting Windographer summary report and associated Excel spreadsheet with raw data are available at the CWE web site.

In 2009, the town of Tangier was awarded a grant by the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) that was sourced from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds for the installation of a wind turbine to supplement the electricity needs of the community. The studies that had previously been conducted were instrumental in terms of informing the options for wind on Tangier. However, a number of potential conflicts, especially associated with the operation of aircraft at and around Tangier, presented insurmountable obstacles to the development of wind power at that time. In the meantime the 50-meter MET tower continues to collect data, the analysis of which describes a high quality wind resource that could support cost-effective wind development.

The silver lining associated with the ARRA award is that, while permission was not obtained to develop a wind project, the DMME in cooperation with the local community and Sustainable Energy Developments, Inc. of Rochester, NY converted the project to solar and deployed 72 kilowatts (kW) of solar on rooftop space and disturbed land. This project was commissioned in 2012.