PRINCESS ANNE – A new University of Baltimore study shows a proposed wind farm could bring hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars to Somerset County that could benefit local schools, roads and police, but some officials are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
County Commissioners still have not given approval to an ordinance that would allow the installation of large-scale turbines – a measure that has seen opposition from a group in Marion Station concerned about whether turbines can create health problems for nearby residents.
And officials see a new state law that sets restrictions on wind turbines within a 46-mile radius of Naval Air Station Patuxent River as an attempt to halt wind-energy development in the county altogether.
“Frustrated would probably be the best word,” said Rex Simpkins, County Commissioners president. “In the end, the state just takes it over anyway.”
Still, he said, the wind farm could be “a big deal for Somerset County,” which has had to dip into its fund balance for the past couple of years to make up for decreasing revenues.
“Our rainy day fund is not going to last forever,” Simpkins said.
Meanwhile, the project is steadily gaining support from different areas of the county including the Princess Anne Chamber of Commerce, which recently agreed to write a letter of support.
It also has gotten the backing of the Somerset County Economic Development Commission.
“In terms of economic development, this is a great way to add tremendous revenue to the county, while also supporting the agricultural way of life and farmers that are also a key driver to the local economy,” said Danny Thompson, director of the EDC. “As we work to develop new ways to fund our schools, public safety, improve infrastructure and develop our work force, we are extremely excited to see a project and investment like this proposed in our county.”
The new study by the university’s Jacob France Institute was commissioned by the Great Bay Wind Energy Center, a proposed 65-turbine wind farm that would be developed on Somerset County farmland by Pioneer Green Energy.
Major findings of the report include:
» The estimated installed costs of the project are expected to be $273.6 million.
» The construction phase of the project is expected to require an expenditure of $50.2 million within Somerset County. Within the county, it will generate 529 jobs, add $13.2 million to labor income and generate a total of $66.8 million in additional economic activity.
» The ongoing operation and maintenance phase of the project will create 14.6 long-term jobs in Somerset County, add $405,572 to labor income and increase economic activity by $1.8 million in the initial year of operations. Maintenance requirements will increase as the equipment ages, so these numbers are likely to increase as well.
» The increases in employment and economic activity created during the construction phase are projected to add $3.6 million to state and local tax revenues, of which $872,229 will be received by Somerset County.
» In the operation and maintenance stage, expenditures made by the Great Bay Wind Project will ultimately generate $3.4 million in additional tax revenues per year at the state and local government level, and $2.9 million within Somerset County – projecting to 44.4 million in new tax revenues over the life of the project.
The full study can be found at www.greatbaywind.com under “Resources.”
“We are excited that this study by one of the leading economic analysis institutions in Maryland concurs with our view – this is the right project, at the right time for Somerset County and the state,” said Adam Cohen, vice president and founder of Pioneer Green Energy.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding