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Wind ordinance hearing to proceed

PRINCESS ANNE – Somerset County Commissioners plan to proceed with a public hearing on a proposed wind energy ordinance as the last step in a process to regulate large-scale commercial turbines.

The measure recently got a favorable recommendation from the county’s Planning Commission following a Jan. 5 public hearing that drew comment from about nine interested parties, Gary Pusey, the county’s planning director, said this week during a meeting with the Commissioners.

County planners spent more than a year working on the ordinance, which sets standards including noise levels, although the technology has improved in recent years, Pusey said.

“These turbines really don’t create much noise anymore,” he said.

The commercial turbines would only be allowed by special exception granted through the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The proposed ordinance also would limit large-scale turbines to land zoned for agriculture, general commercial, light industrial and general industrial uses, Pusey said.

Although officials from Patuxent River Naval Air Station in St. Mary’s County asked for approval authority for turbines built in the county, the Planning Commission did not include it in the ordinance, Pusey said.

Board members felt there is already a Department of Defense clearinghouse which reviews such projects, and base officials also would be able to comment at Board of Zoning Appeals hearings, he said.

Patuxent River base officials have said that commercial wind turbines proposed for sites in Somerset County could interfere with their radar systems.

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, officials told County Commissioners at a meeting last year.

Two companies – Pioneer Green Energy and Delsea Energy – have been talking to Somerset County farmers and other owners of large tracts of land in the hopes of leasing areas to install turbines.

Representatives from Pioneer Green told County Commissioners last year that they have signed contracts on 6,000 acres in the county.

Both companies have been collecting wind data for the past year.

Land from Deal Island Road southward to Crisfield is in the company’s target area, although areas near the Crisfield-Somerset County Airport have to be avoided.

The county already has an ordinance in place for smaller, residential wind energy systems.