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Baltimore Co. Council to vote on permitting wind speed indicators

The Baltimore County Council is expected to vote Monday on whether to issue permits for wind speed indicators, a step toward determining the prospects of electricity-generating wind turbines in the county.

Wind turbines have been opposed by residents who argue they’re too noisy, spoil scenic views and lower property values. The council withdrew a proposal for a pilot wind power program in August because of community opposition.

Issuing temporary permits for wind speed indicators, known as anemometers, would help determine whether turbines are feasible, said Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, whose rural, northern county district has been the source of much of the opposition.

Anemomenters collect data on wind conditions to determine the most active seasons and areas.

“I couldn’t see authorizing windmills without even knowing if we had enough wind,” McIntire said. “I don’t want some wealthy person to put up a windmill just because they like the idea. Their neighbors might not.”

St. James Episcopal Church in Parkton received a Maryland Energy Administration grant to install a 100-foot anemometer tower, but it wasn’t able to get a county permit because the devices weren’t included in the building code.

The church has a renewable energy demonstration project underway that aims to show people how they can conserve energy and use other resources, such as solar, wind and geothermal energy. Church leaders are interested in installing a wind turbine.

Doug Harbit, who leads the church’s environmental initiative group, said he believes that both sides on the wind turbine debate will welcome the anemometers.

“This will show people whether there is or isn’t enough wind,” he said. “Everyone is in favor of this because they think it will prove their point.”

The legislation is sponsored by McIntire, council chairman John Olszewski Sr., and Councilman Vince Gardina. Under the proposal, a device could remain on a property for up to one year from the date it starts collecting data. The total height of the anemometer could not exceed 100 feet. Typical measuring devices are fairly small, consisting of three or more cup-shaped blades that spin in the breeze.

The withdrawn proposal would have created a pilot five-year program and changed the districts where turbines would be allowed. The measure dealt with turbines in areas used for commercial farming, for institutions such as schools and churches, and manufacturing. Opponents argued that bill protected only residential areas near manufacturing zones, not those near commercial farms or institutions.

Olszewski said he would like to know if wind energy could be an alternative energy source in the county.

“There’s no way to tell until we start measuring wind capabilities,” he said. “It would be beneficial to the county to get some results so that we can see if it will be worthwhile to explore the possibilities.”