Two local businesses are pushing to build wind turbines and solar panels to generate electricity in a Mount Airy park, acting upon an idea proposed by a college environmentalist last summer.
The owners of Freedom Energy Solutions in Westminster and Grey Goes Green in Middletown also want to use Windy Ridge Park as an environmental campus, where students could learn about renewable energy sources.
Tim Richards, a Haverford College junior who grew up in Mount Airy, originated the idea of erecting wind turbines in the Frederick County park, which recently opened to the public. Wind energy could provide the community with an alternative to buying from power companies, said Richards, founder of the grass-roots group Citizens for a Green Mount Airy.
Last week, a New Jersey-based company proposed building about 150 wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean, 12 miles off Maryland’s Ocean City.
Tom Williams, owner of Freedom Energy Solutions, said installing 20 wind turbines and solar panels in the 88-acre park eventually could be a major power source for Mount Airy, a town of nearly 9,000 residents that straddles Carroll and Frederick counties.
“Eventually the park will pay for itself,” Williams said. “It will be a self-sustaining facility.”
Even though the wind turbines could provide an alternative source of electricity amid soaring energy prices, they would require a substantial investment up front. Williams said each turbine would cost Mount Airy about $300,000 to install.
He proposes horizontal turbines on towers in the elevated park, which is known for its windy conditions. The turbines proposed off Ocean City would be 400 feet tall; the Mount Airy towers would be significantly shorter.
Williams said he is scheduled to discuss a preliminary plan for Windy Ridge Park at a Mount Airy Town Council meeting next month.
Williams said he and the founders of Grey Goes Green hope to release a more detailed plan by year’s end and work toward securing an initial contract with the town. Mount Airy could form its own community-based power company or sell the alternative energy to area providers, such as Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Allegheny Power, Williams said.
Initially, wind and solar power could be used as a backup to power municipal buildings during an electrical outage, Richards said.
Mount Airy Mayor Frank M. Johnson expressed interest, but said he knew few details about the wind power proposal.
“Nothing is imminent,” Johnson said.
Citizens for a Green Mount Airy has encouraged Johnson to outfit the Town Hall with solar panels. But before Mount Airy can apply for a solar power grant, an energy audit must be performed to make electricity use more efficient, Richards said.
Richards found an ally in Johnson last summer, as they pushed water conservation efforts during a persistent drought. Citizens for a Green Mount Airy encouraged the town to subsidize 55-gallon rain barrels to help residents reduce dependence on city water.
Unlike water conservation, the wind power project would be expensive, Richards said.
“The hardest part is securing the capital to get this off the ground,” he said. “We’ll just see what hybrid model we can make work in Mount Airy.”
By Laura McCandlish
22 October 2007
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