Several residents spoke out Tuesday against the proposed Tilghman Island wind turbine project during the Talbot County Council’s public hearing on the project.
Eleven residents spoke, with four in support and seven against the proposed project. Concerns included financial reasons, decreased tourism and the potential for endangering the bird population.
The plan is for a 50-kilowatt unit at 152 feet high with blades 63 feet in diameter and expected to produce about 150,000 kilowatt hours of electricity at the county’s wastewater plant on Tilghman Island. Also included are plans for a 40-kilowatt solar array field. The project’s objective is to save between $13,000 and $15,000 a year on electricity.
The county secured a $600,000 loan from the Maryland Department of the Environment for the project, with half of that forgiven. Another $100,000 could come from the Maryland Energy Administration, leaving about $200,000 financed through a low-interest state loan.
County Councilman Tom Duncan thinks the Tilghman wind turbine is a bad idea financially and he would rather see a centralized wind farm rather than turbines throughout the county.
“We are spending $400,000 for $13,000 of energy saving a year,” he said. “The numbers are not there for that kind of money. We are talking about state governments in deep, deep trouble. The (federal government) is in trouble. We are in trouble and you want to put $400,000 to save $13,000.”
Several residents at Tuesday’s hearing referred to the Chesapeake College wind turbine as a tourist attraction, and said tourists would visit the Tilghman wind turbine.
“As far as Chesapeake College, the thing I’m glad about that is that turbine is in Queen Anne’s County, not Talbot,” Duncan said. “They put it right in front of the college we spend millions of dollars building rather than putting it in the back.
“These things (wind turbines) are springing up all over the place like the state flower of West Virginia, which is a (satellite) dish,” he said.
Thomas Caplan of the Tilghman Island Preservation Committee said the facility would lose money based on maintenance cost estimates.
“The carpet is out from under the whole argument just on financial ground,” he said.
Caplan said the proposed wind turbine is inconsistent with the county’s cell phone tower policy, which prohibits a cell tower from being within 500 feet of a school. He said the wind turbine is 162 feet from Tilghman Elementary.
“This would be even closer to the school and also includes moving parts,” he said. “Admittedly, there are very few instances where blades have come loose, but they can. When they do, they don’t fall to the ground, they can glide so this poses a potential hazard. It would be unwise to be associated with that.”
Talbot County Bird Club member Andrew Bullen of Cordova said the council should wait to make a decision until federal wind turbine guidelines are released. He said the turbine also would hurt bird populations.
“Tilghman Island and the whole Eastern Shore is a major migratory corridor for birds and birds of prey,” he said. “This is a major migration route for birds and they certainly would be impacted by a wind turbine. Fact of the matter is that all wind turbine facilities are going to kill birds. It’s simply a matter of (placing) them in an appropriate place and minimize that impact.”
Andrew Gohn, Maryland Energy Administration clean energy program manager, spoke in favor of the project.
“This is exactly the type of project we have in mind, projects that would encompass mid-size, sail-wind turbines,” he said. “One of the things that got me really excited about this project is the wind resource on Tilghman Island.”
Tim Fluharty of Fluharty’s Electric said wind turbines are beneficial to the environment. He said a wind turbine’s energy output eliminates about 252,000 pounds of carbon pollution in a typical Mid-Shore winter. He said output would prevent 5,251 trees from being cut down each winter.
“I’ve put one up, which is within 30 feet of Crisfield High School,” Fluharty said. “They use it as a class and teach about energy. This is something that is coming in the future.”
Gary Sorrelle of Atech Energy, a division of Atlantic Tractor that installed the Chesapeake College wind turbine, said it has become a tourist attraction. He said wind turbines also kill fewer birds than many other machines.
The Talbot County Council will review public comments and keep the public record open until Friday.
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