PRINCESS ANNE – Somerset County likely could see wind turbines staked across its rural landscape – just not as soon as one energy company intends.
An independent MIT study has determined that proposed county wind turbines, depending on their location and height, could adversely affect Navy radar systems located across the Chesapeake Bay from Crisfield. The good news is that the study recommends optional measures that could accommodate both Naval Air Station Patuxent River test range operations and wind energy projects proposed for thousands of acres of farmland in the Westover region of Somerset.
Researching the options would require further study and extend a decision on the fate of proposed turbines, said Christopher Jarboe, a Naval air station official who unveiled findings and options at a Tuesday meeting of the Somerset County Commissioners.
“If wind turbines are in a direct line of sight (of a radar system), there would be a significant impact to the (radar) system; that corroborates what the Navy said,” Jarboe told commissioners. “MIT felt there were mitigation options. All mitigation options are possible, but they need to be studied.”
The meeting with County Commissioners drew a crowd that included Delegate Charles Otto, R-38A-Somerset, and Senator Jim Mathias, D-38-Worcester, who reminded Navy officials that while military testing and national security are paramount, so is the future of the region and economic benefits that renewable energy would bring the county.
“We were here before Patuxent River and we want to use our property without the curtailment of government,” Otto said.
Mathias said he hoped the Navy and wind companies strike a balance suitable for both sides.
“We’re going to do everything we can to bring about a brighter future here,” he said. “We must protect national defense and freedom, and we have to pay our bills. If we can find a balance, I’m all for it.”
Jarboe told commissioners that steps already are in motion to seek funding to study options by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Adam Cohen, vice president at Great Bay Wind Energy Center, said 10,000 acres of land near Westover already has been set aside from 200 landowners for wind turbines.
He applauded proposed options, but noted that most of them put the burden of compromise on wind producers.
“We hope to work out a solution with Patuxent,” he said.
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