March 18, 2015

House vote moves Somerset wind project one step closer to scrap

Somerset turbine plan now in danger | Written by Jennifer Shutt, Staff Writer | Mar. 18, 2015 |

ANNAPOLIS – Legislation that would essentially kill a wind turbine project in Somerset County moved one step closer to becoming law Monday.

The House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to put height restrictions on wind turbines at varying distances from the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Southern Maryland. Moving to the Senate side, environmental groups and opponents of the bill plan to meet with members of the Senate finance committee. Talks could also begin with the governor’s office.

The proposed Great Bay wind project in Somerset County would fall into a region where turbines taller than a few hundred feet are prohibited.

Although the bill would only delay the project for about 13 months until a study can be completed, Adam Cohen, vice president and founder of Pioneer Green Energy, which is developing the Somerset County project, said it kills the project.

“During the last four years we’ve been working in good faith with Pax River and the governor in designing and building a project, in making sure the Navy is protected and we reached an agreement,” Cohen said. “A bill to just kill our project and deprive the poorest county in Maryland of a $200 million investment doesn’t seem to be a solution.”

The 13 months the sponsors of the bill say is needed to conduct a study is irrelevant, Cohen said. The study would look at impacts of having the turbines run while the Navy conducts tests.

House Bill 1168 would prevent the state from approving construction of wind turbines that exceed a range of heights within the Atlantic Test Range used by the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. If approved by the Senate, the legislation would suspend construction of the 70-megawatt Great Bay wind project in Somerset County.

The legislation would take effect June 1, 2014, and end June 30, 2015, because of a study underway by Lincoln Laboratories at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to mitigate some of the problems with how the radar system interacts with wind turbines.

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