If there was a way for Somerset to provide real jobs and decent paychecks to the county, the county would toot its horn long and hard to make it happen.
The wind energy project, however, will provide neither jobs nor paychecks to most of its economically challenged residents, with the exception of a few construction and labor positions for six to nine months – and then only 7.3 permanent jobs would be left. So most of the money created by this project will be given to the landowners who sign leases with Great Bay Wind. These are all farmers or poultry growers.
Granted, some are trying to save their farms for their children and some are being given a way to keep their land and receive payments for 35 years for turbines placed on their property.
The vexing problem is that no one has had any thoughts concerning the plight of the other residents of this agricultural/residential district, those who will have to live amongst the turbines simply because they live in that district.
If the currently proposed zoning ordinance prevails, we will have a 600-foot industrial turbine sitting 750 feet to 1,000 feet from the foundations of our homes. Even the maintenance manual for VESTAS turbines states that workers must stay 1,300 feet away from turbines if not performing maintenance.
This is not fair and not safe.
We require a thoughtfully revised amendment to the ordinance creating a 2,640- to 3,500-foot setback from property lines – not a residence’s foundation – and requiring the same setbacks for schools, churches, day cares and hospitals.
The amendment states:
“and to preserve and protect public health and safety without significantly increasing the cost or decreasing the efficiency of industrial wind energy conversion systems.”
The above setback requirement will preserve and protect public health and safety without causing any additional cost nor decrease the turbines’ efficiency.
Last, but certainly not least, we have Pax River. If the Navy signs an agreement and it fails to be honored by Great Bay, the Navy will just pick up its marbles and move them elsewhere.
That’s 40,000 people out of work.
Does 7.3 jobs overrule 40,000 jobs? If Somerset gets a wind farm but Maryland loses 40,000 skilled jobs to another state, leaving thousands of residents without jobs, what does that say for the Great State of Maryland? Then we have a windfarm but no Pax River mission nor jobs.
These things must be pondered.
I believe another 13 months to finish the MIT study, find creative solutions to the radar issues and rethink the county wind ordinance would be good for Pax River and Somerset County. Now that we know the problems, solutions will surely follow. If Great Bay does not wish to continue the project, others will most likely follow in its wake.
Winning the battle but losing the war is clearly not good for the state of Maryland.
E. J. Monheiser lives in Marion Station.