Talbot scraps wind, solar projects at Tilghman wastewater facility
Credit: By DANIEL DIVILIO Staff Writer, The Star Democrat, www.stardem.com 15 February 2012 ~~
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EASTON Citing spatial issues at the property and residents’ concerns, the Talbot County Council killed plans to build a wind turbine and solar panel array at a Tilghman wastewater treatment facility.
The plan called for a 152-foot wind turbine at the county treatment plant, with the option of also including a solar array field. Talbot officials had funding from the state to cover most of the $600,000 price tag for both the turbine and solar field, but would have had to take out a loan of about $200,000 to cover the remainder.
The project would have saved between $13,000 and $15,000 annually on electricity not enough to make it really worthwhile, Councilman Laura Price said at Tuesday’s meeting. During the council’s discussions on the project, it was clear none of the five members fully backed the plans.
Councilman Dirck Bartlett raised the issue of space at the site, saying he was concerned the solar field will take up what little land at the site, which has a pond, is left for upgrades to the plant. Bartlett said improving the facility needs to be the top priority should state money from the Chesapeake Restoration Fund become available.
“With solar panels on every available square foot of space other than the pond, I worry that we’re not going to have any room for future expansion there,” Bartlett said.
Talbot County Engineer Ray Clarke said one space-saving option under consideration was to actually float the solar panels on a pond at the facility. Clarke said the additional costs for doing so had not been reviewed though.
Bartlett said anytime the county would have to dredge the pond, additional time and money would have to be spent moving out the solar panels, but Council Vice President Andrew Hollis and Councilman Thomas Duncan both said they were intrigued by the floating system idea and wanted more information about it.
Hollis and other council members agreed the wind turbine was not the way to go, with Bartlett saying it was clear from a public hearing held last month the Tilghman community was opposed to the tower.
Concerns raised by locals at the hearing included the aesthetics of the tower, its potential harm to migratory bird populations and the risk of blades breaking off and striking a nearby school.
“I think that the community came together in a positive way. I mean, in some sense, they are the rate payers down there,” Bartlett said Tuesday of the remarks made by Tilghman residents last month.
The final decision was to scrap the entire project, and Council President Corey Pack saying the county may have bitten off more than it can chew. Pack said he appreciated all the efforts spent planning the project.
“I do not want to go with the wind turbines at the site. I think there was enough community testimony about that. I just don’t feel good about doing that right now. And I just don’t feel that the solar panels are going to be a good fit at this site,” he said.
Price said it is great the county was able to obtain funding for the project, but all the money still comes from taxpayers. She said the project would never pay for itself based on the expected electric cost savings for the treatment plant.
Bartlett asked if the funding could be transferred to a different county facility located near Easton on Klondike Road, but Clarke said the request for state funding was specifically written for Tilghman. Clarke said Talbot would have to surrender the money and submit a new request for a different location.
“We have to return these funds,” Clarke said.
Bartlett asked Clarke to make sure MDE officials know the council appreciated the funding and hopes to continue receiving financial support from the agency for future projects.
Additional reporting by staff writer Dustin Holt.
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