CHESTERTOWN – Community members opposed to plans for wind turbines in the Kennedyville area will hold an organizational meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Kent County Public Library in Chestertown.
Apex Clean Energy, a Charlottesville, Va.-based company, has been conducting various studies to determine the feasibility of erecting 35 to 45 500-foot-tall wind turbines, for what it calls the Mills Branch Wind project. The turbines would be placed on farmland between state routes 213 and 291.
“The Mills Branch Wind Farm could offer an opportunity to address Maryland’s growing electricity demand with clean domestic energy, while diversifying Kent County’s economy and supporting the rural farm community,” the company’s project website states.
In an interview last year Tyson Utt, of Apex, said the company leases land from farmers, who benefit through revenue sharing on the energy production. According to the company’s website, Apex has been involved in similar projects throughout the country, stretching from Maine to Nevada.
Opponents to the project have launched a Facebook page, Keep Kent Scenic, and their own website, keepkentscenic.org.
“With a forest of wind turbines visible up to 25 miles away, Kent County tourism will no longer enjoy its scenic resource, and historic properties and homeowners can expect a big hit on property values. The 49 wind turbines of this industrial power project will dominate the Mid Atlantic skyline reaching almost as high as Baltimore’s tallest building, the Transamerica Tower. Our waterfowl and bats are in danger,” the site states.
The issue of the turbines arose at the Kent County Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday, when Commissioner Bill Short stated his opposition to the project. “I’ve been studying this for about a year,” Short said, noting that Apex claims the county government “has little say” in whether the project goes forth. “I don’t support the project whatsoever,” he said.
Commissioner William Pickrum said the Maryland Public Service Commission is required to hold two hearings, one in Kent County and one in Annapolis, before approving the project. “I encourage residents to express their opinions, for or against the proposal,” he said. He said it would be a good opportunity for young people, including high school and college students, to get involved.
County Administrator Ernie Crofoot said he would make sure the community is informed of any public hearing or other opportunity for input.
Commissioner Ron Fithian asked Crofoot if Apex really believes it can “usurp” the county’s responsibility as expressed in the zoning ordinance. The county ordinance sets a 120-foot limit on the height of wind turbines.
Crofoot said Apex is basing its case on the fact that electrical power is a public utility that is used beyond the area where it is generated. “Local folks don’t get much of a say,” he said.
Fithian referred to a case a few years ago when someone who wanted to install a solar array on a local farm “was run out of town” by unfavorable public opinion. “I can’t imagine anyone thinks 49 500-foot towers won’t get a similar reaction,” he said.
Crofoot said the public needs to testify at the PSC hearings. “They do listen,” he said. He said public opinion is a significant factor in their decision.
Mike Waal said from the audience that the issue is being driven by a 2012 state law mandating that 20 percent of the state’s energy be generated from renewable sources by the year 2020.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding