OAKLAND – Messenger Limited Partnership has requested the Garrett County Planning Commission to amend the Deep Creek watershed zoning ordinance to allow a wind farm in the rural resource zoning district.
Wind turbines are prohibited in all zones of the watershed and the amendment would permit them in the rural resource zone only with the condition that the turbines would be 20,000 feet from the high waterline of Deep Creek Lake, according to Bob Paye, an attorney at Geppert, McMullen, Paye & Getty, P.C.
Paye suggested during a planning commission meeting Wednesday that the panel approve the request despite the fact that wind power has become a controversial topic. He asked for a favorable recommendation based “on the grounds this change would be consistent and compatible with basically all of the laws and principles and purposes that are in place, including your zoning ordinance and your comprehensive plan.”
The proposed wind project would be located in the northern edge of the zoning district, four miles north of Deep Creek Lake State Park and would have between 100 to 133 shrouded 100-kilowatt Ogin wind turbines, according to Lars Dorr, director of business development with Ogin Energy in Waltham, Mass. Ogin, which was previously FloDesign, manufactures wind turbines that are significantly shorter in stature at 200 feet, according to Dorr. They are smaller and less impactful, according to Paye. The wind turbines have a shroud around them, which makes them unique from the contemporary wind turbine, said Dorr.
“The purpose of the shroud is to enhance the aerodynamics around the rotor. So it has a smaller rotor sweep area but at the same time captures more energy,” said Dorr.
The planning commission was hesitant about making a recommendation to the county commissioners because the Ogin wind turbine is just a prototype and no studies have been conducted to determine the noise level that it will emit. Troy Ellington, chairman of the planning commission, asked how the noise level of the Ogin turbines compares to that of large wind turbines.
“I don’t have any specific data on that. That is one of the things that we are working on obtaining from the initial projects in California. We should have, hopefully by mid next year, a certified IEC test that tells us exactly what the sound intensity level is,” said Dorr. “We are anticipating that it will be slightly less than the large megawatt class turbines. The IEC standard specifies the measurement and analysis techniques of noise emissions by wind turbine generator systems.
“My problems with this particular project here is, one, the Deep Creek Lake ordinance already says no wind turbines, and, two, the noise level. We don’t have any documentation for noise level with that many wind turbines; we are being used as a guinea pig,” said Jeffery Conner, planning commission member.
The Ogin website claims that the wind turbines are quiet.
It is also theorized that the Ogin wind turbines will be more bird and bat friendly and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is excited about the design, according to Dorr.
Bruce Swift, alternate member of the planning commission, asked if there is a timing issue with the proposed project.
“Knowing that you don’t have your ducks in a row yet, what is the purpose of bringing it up now?” asked Swift. “To me that is a huge factor, not knowing what the noise impact is.”
The project is slated to go into commercial operation by the end of 2015, according to Dorr.
Two citizens speaking during the meeting asked the planning commission to delay the decision. Paul Durham, speaking on behalf of the Garrett County Board of Realtors, requested a public hearing before the planning commission makes its decision.
“There has been some additional information that has been presented at this meeting that the public hasn’t had the opportunity to review, such as the number of turbines,” said Durham, who said that the information on the potential noise level should be provided before the planning commission makes a recommendation.
Oakland resident Eric Robison, who is a member of the Deep Creek Lake Watershed Planning Steering Committee, asked that the planning commission hold off on a recommendation until the subcommittee on negative impacts of growth can conduct a study. The study is slated to be completed in June, according to Robison.
The proposed project would need a clearing of about 34 to 40 acres, which includes roads and there would be about 180 feet, which is an industry standard, between each wind turbine, according to Dorr. Robison asked if any studies were done to determine exactly how far apart the wind turbines would be. Dorr indicated that once the proposed wind farm in California is complete, they would conduct a study.
Robison also asked if Ogin had applied to the Maryland Public Service Commission for a wind turbine certification for generating power. Dorr indicated that he wasn’t aware of that requirement. The project would have to adhere to the wind turbine setback requirements of Senate Bill 370, according to John Nelson, director of Planning and Land Development.
If the planning commission recommends the amendment to the ordinance it would have to go before the county commission for final approval.
The public hearing on the amendment to the zoning ordinance will be held Feb. 5 during the regular meeting of the planning commission.
For more information on Ogin, visit the website at http://www.oginenergy.com/.
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