The battle over offshore wind turbines on Maryland’s Eastern Shore blusters on, but aircraft testers at Naval Air Station Patuxent River won a small victory over land-based windmills in the recent Maryland General Assembly session, which adjourned in April.
The Southern Maryland legislative delegation, working with representatives from the governor’s office, SMECO and the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance, shepherded a bill through the session that will re-regulate the construction of private windmill generators, giving the Navy a change to review and comment on new turbines before they are constructed in a flight line or in view of radars.
“This addresses the concern about putting up windmills on land,” said Del. John Bohanan of St. Mary’s County. “It’s an issue with the folks on the base. We amended [the law] to fix our problem. We’ve re-regulated that.”
Naval Test Wing Atlantic, based at Pax River, operates several radars on the Eastern Shore, and aircraft conducting test operations over the Atlantic Ocean pass over the Delmarva peninsula on their way. Proposed offshore wind projects in Delmarva have pitted leaders on the Eastern Shore, who see the turbines as an economic boon, against Southern Maryland leaders, who see the turbines as a threat to operations at Pax River.
For the past few years, the law on private turbines was loosened, allowing property owners to construct a turbine under 25 megawatts simply by completing a county permitting process. The new legal change will again require turbine owners to apply to the Maryland Public Service Commission, which will then determine if the project should undergo a public comment period.
According to Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton of Charles County, the Navy Alliance approached the delegation and asked them to re-regulate the windmill process out of concern that new windmills might interfere with Pax River’s mission. After approaching Navy officials to obtain information, Middleton introduced the bill in the Maryland Senate. Southern Maryland delegates, led by Del. Sally Jameson of Charles County, introduced a similar bill in the House.
The final provision was a rider on a bill that regulates how utilities will be allowed to update their transmission lines.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding