ANNAPOLIS– A bill that would delay a planned wind farm in Somerset County drew opposition from environmental groups Tuesday in the Senate Finance Committee despite support from Democratic lawmakers.
The bill, which cleared the House of Delegates, would prohibit the public service commission from allowing wind turbines for more than a year within 56 miles of the Patuxent River Naval Base.
The measure is designed to allow for a study that would determine whether it’s possible to mitigate spinning turbines’ potential impact on the radar technology used by the base.
U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Mitchellville, testified that he supports the bill and said this kind of study could help lay the groundwork for future wind projects near radar facilities.
“It’s not an either-or situation,” he said.
The bill would set back plans for the Great Bay wind project, which costs $200 million and aims to put at least 25 turbines that are up to 600 feet tall in Somerset County.
“This kills the project,” said Adam Cohen, vice president of Pioneer Green, the company running the project.
Opponents of the bill said the radar could only be disrupted by moving turbines and the developer has an arrangement with the Navy to stop wind operations based on the Navy’s needs.
But Hoyer said that while he supports wind energy, a curtailment agreement shows that turbines and the radar system do not work well together.
“This is not a mom and pop type turbine,” said Delegate John Bohanan, D-St. Mary’s County, who supports the bill.
Hoyer and other supporters of the bill said they are concerned that if turbines interrupted the radar system’s ability to function properly, the base could be moved as a part of military consolidation.
“We cannot take lightly this [Base Realignment and Closure] threat,” said Sen. Roy Dyson, D-St. Mary’s.
But the bill’s opponents said they think the project would not interfere with the base and would bring many green jobs to one of Maryland’s poorest counties.
Abby Hopper, director of the Maryland Energy Administration, said if the bill goes forward as written, it would send a negative message to the country about Maryland’s business climate.
Before the hearing in the Senate Finance Committee, protesters met in front of the State House to voice opposition to the bill.
Maryland farmers drove two tractors with turbines on them through Annapolis as a part of their protest.
Mary Anne Peterman lives on a farm in Somerset County and keeps up a house that was built in the 1840s. She hopes the wind project could alleviate some of her financial problems.
“An upkeep on a place like that on a farm is a lot, so the revenue from this would really help our future generations,” she said.