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Mount Airy wind farm project to be discussed at Jan. 17 meeting  

Mount Airy is ready for a foray into alternative energy if the approximately 60 people who attended a town hall meeting on renewable energy and cooperatives on Saturday are any indication.

They heard remarks and presentations that dealt with bringing renewable energy projects, specifically wind, to Mount Airy, and what that could mean for reducing its environmental impact and increasing security.

Other renewable energy alternatives include solar and geothermal.

United for a Sustainable Maryland, a nonprofit organization formed by the founders of Citizens for a Green Mount Airy and Grey Goes Green, put on the forum to discuss how renewable energy could be brought to Mount Airy and to other communities in the state.

Representatives from Allegheny Energy, Maryland Energy Administration, Freedom Energy Solutions, and the host groups participated in a panel discussion and fielded questions from the audience.

The forum was designed as a way for the public to learn about participating in energy cooperatives, and to ask questions and make comments before a wind project proposal at the Jan. 17 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting.

It was also a means for people to learn the “nitty gritty“ of what can be accomplished in Mount Airy, said Rick Lank, executive vice president of Grey Goes Green.

Tim Richards, founder of Citizens for a Green Mount Airy, spoke on how an energy cooperative could be an approach to make renewable energy more accessible.

Richards, who worked on organizing an effort during the summer to buy rain barrels for residents, said installing a system that harnesses solar energy in a household could cost upwards of $20,000. “Renewable energy is a great thing,“ he said. “It’s hard to do by yourself.“

Tom Williams, president of Freedom Energy Solutions and Grey Goes Green, will present a concept proposal at the Jan. 17 meeting for a wind farm on about five acres of land in Windy Ridge Park.

He said he would propose that 20 turbines, no taller than 120 feet, be installed to supply almost 2,000 houses with energy. With help from the utility company, it could be possible to lower costs.

Patty Williamson, a member of the town’s Beautification and Parks and Recreation commissions, asked if the area would be fenced. She said that she had concerns that too much fencing would prevent the public from being able to use the park.

Williams indicated that fencing would be addressed in the January proposal.

Another concern expressed by at least one person in the audience who would pay for the installation of a wind farm.

Williams said the farm would be owned by the town, and set up using grants and loans that the town would apply for.

Lank said he planned on contacting the state to see if there were any opportunities for funding because Mount Airy would be doing something new, adding that he had already been contacted by three other municipalities in the state that were interested in what the outcome was in Mount Airy.

There were also comments regarding how ice accumulation on the turbine blades could potentially be dangerous if icicles fly off. Williams said he would look into the matter, though the proposed site for the wind farm is not near residences.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Dist. 6) of Buckeystown gave a presentation on the impact of the country’s oil consumption. The United States uses 25 percent of the world’s oil, he said, and 70 percent of what Americans use is for transportation.

He said people should begin their energy efforts with conservation, which they can do by eating locally because the average distance food travels is 1,500 miles.

Town Councilman Gary Nelson, liaison to the Parks and Recreation Commission, said he is interested in learning more about what the town can do and what the town wants to do.

“The communities may be the starting point for this type of solution,“ he said.

by Mankaa Ngwa-Suh | Staff Writer

The Gazette

21 November 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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