PRINCESS ANNE – Commercial wind turbines proposed for sites around Somerset County could interfere with radar at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, a base official said during a packed County Commissioners meeting Tuesday.
Much of Somerset County is located within the Navy’s Atlantic Test Range, and turbines could create “noise” on radar systems at the St. Mary’s County facility, said Christopher Jarboe of the NAVAIR Ranges Sustainability Office.
The Navy hopes to collaborate with the county and wind energy developers to identify “win-win” solutions, he said.
Turbines built beyond or below the radar’s line of sight would not create noise, and the further a turbine is from the Naval base, the taller it could be without interfering, Jarboe said.
Crisfield Mayor Percy Purnell, who has been trying to build a wind turbine at the city’s sewage treatment plant for the past three years, said he talked to radar experts at nearby Wallops Island and “they don’t get it.”
There also are turbines in Massachusetts near Logan Airport in Boston and several military bases, but radar systems there are not affected. “Why us?” he said.
Crisfield sits in an area where a turbine taller than 275 feet could be “seen” by radar, but the city hopes to build a 300-foot-tall energy system.
“Are you asking us to abandon wind turbines?” Purnell asked.
Jarboe said the radar used at Patuxent River is different than air traffic control systems used in Boston and other airports.
“If we were only doing air traffic control, it wouldn’t be as big a deal,” he said.
In Crisfield, Jarboe said he has discussed lowering the proposed turbine with City Inspector Noah Bradshaw.
Dan Keubler of Crisfield asked why the Navy couldn’t adjust its equipment.
“A win-win would be to change your line of sight,” he said.
Jarboe said that could happen, but not until after proposals go through a Department of Defense clearinghouse.
“That will be something on the table farther out,” he said.
Proposals also have to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Adam Cohen of Pioneer Green Energy – one of two companies working with landowners in the hopes of installing turbines – said his company has conducted its own studies on radar systems that show there is no effect past 20 nautical miles.
Somerset County is 29 nautical miles from Patuxent River, he said.
“We’ll share our studies with the Navy and work with you,” he said.
The county’s Planning Commission has started working on an ordinance for commercial wind operations, but nothing has been adopted so far.
Jarboe said he worked with St. Mary’s and Calvert counties on developing ordinances and asked Somerset officials to consider doing that as well.
There also is a memorandum of understanding with Dorchester County – which sits directly across the Chesapeake Bay from the base – to send proposals for residential turbines to the Navy for review before they are built.
St. Mary’s County Commissioner Todd Morgan, who attended the meeting with Jarboe, said with base closings elsewhere in the country, “other states are coming after our work.”
St. Mary’s officials have nothing against wind turbines, but they want to protect the more than 40,000 jobs at Patuxent River.
“We want to work together,” he said.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding