Category Archives: Maryland

Wind News – Maryland

Kent Co: Apex Clean Energy slowing pursuit of wind turbine project

By JONATHAN CRIBBS, Staff Writer April 18, 2015 | www.americanfarm.com ~~

A Virginia energy company pursuing a large wind turbine project across 5,000 acres of farmland in Kent County, Md., is slowing its construction timeline after local residents and officials protested the project recently on the Eastern Shore and at the State House in Annapolis, a company official said last week.

Apex Clean Energy was planning to seek approval for the project known as Mills Branch Wind through the state’s public utility agency, the Public Service Commission, within the next few months, said Dahvi Wilson, spokesperson for the Charlottesville-based company. A utility company seeking to build or change an electric generating plant in the state must receive a permit from the commission known as a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity, commonly referred to as a CPCN.

“We have decided to slow that process down so that we can have more time to hear from the community, share more information about the project, and work with local residents to make sure they have the facts they need to understand what the Mills Branch project would mean for Kent County,” Wilson said in an e-mail to The Delmarva Farmer. “We do not have a specific permit application filing date in mind, but we no longer intend to file in the immediate term.”

State Sen. Stephen Hershey Jr., R-Kent, sought earlier this month to prevent Apex from getting the permit by submitting a bill that would have given Kent County the right to vote on the project.

County officials have protested Mills Branch Wind because the turbines — which would be about 500 feet tall — violate county restrictions. But state law, due to the project’s size, mandates Apex go through the Public Service Commission for approval.

With roughly two weeks to make it through the legislature, the bill never made it out of the Senate Finance Committee before the state’s legislative session ended Feb. 13.

Regardless, the bill was likely dead on arrival, Hershey said, due to the precedent it would set — granting a single county say over the fate of a large public utility proposal. “We knew we had an uphill battle just on the timing of this… but we also knew one of the main things we were going to be able to do was get this hearing and draw attention to this project,” he said. Many local residents protested the project before the committee April 7 when the bill was given a hearing.

The interim president of Washington College in Chestertown, Jay Griswold, sent an email to the college community, encouraging them to attend the hearing as well. Among the college’s concerns: what affect the turbines would have on migratory waterfowl and how the skyscraper-tall turbines would “despoil” the county’s scenic landscape. “I think Apex also heard loud and clear that Kent County’s not the right place for their project. Whether they will continue with their project obviously remains to be seen,” he said. Hershey said the commission will also receive a letter signed by Senate Finance Committee Chair Thomas “Mac” Middleton and House Economic Matters Committee Chair Dereck E. Davis reiterating the county’s desire to be involved in the project’s approval. County commissioners, for instance, could be invited to Public Service Commission hearings and testify, Hershey said. “If this is where we are, where the counties don’t have enough say, then maybe the process is flawed or at least not current to the types of projects we’re seeing now,” he said.

Many details about Mills Branch Wind project have yet to be finalized, according to the company’s website. About 25-35 turbines would stretch over six miles from downtown Chestertown and about two and a half miles from Kennedyville and Galena under the current plan, Wilson said. It would eventually be capable of generating 100 megawatts of energy, enough to power up to 30,000 homes each year. The company also claims the project would create 70-100 temporary construction jobs and six to eight permanent, local jobs after it went online. It would also provide income for those farm owners who decide to allow the construction of turbines or transmission equipment on their land. Local residents have said they worry the turbines could create a host of problems from noise to migratory bird kills and plummeting property values. Apex officials say there isn’t research to support any of those claims.

Kent Co: Towns urged to join wind farm opposition

By DORIAN MITCHELL | April 17, 2015 | www.myeasternshoremd.com ~~

BETTERTON, Md— The towns in Kent County were encouraged to join the opposition against the controversial Mills Branch Wind project during the monthly Council of Governments meeting Wednesday, April 15, at Barbara’s by the Bay.

Developed by Apex Clean Energy, the project calls for 25 to 35 500-foot tall wind turbines to be placed in the Kennedyville area. A number of residents and county officials have objected to the presence of a wind farm.

Kent County Commissioner Bill Short said he attended an April 7 public hearing at the General Assembly. The hearing was on a bill that would prevent the Public Service Commission from excluding Kent County in the decision-making process on the wind farm.

Though that bill failed, Short said support for the opposition was growing across the Bay Bridge and that two state senators were going to send letters to the PSC, asking that its evaluation process be reviewed.

“They didn’t look at the consequences when they passed all this legislation,” he said. “The consequences that come to little counties like ours are just draconian.”

Short said communications about further support are currently taking place between the commissioners and the offices of Gov. Larry Hogan; Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Hogan’s director of intergovernmental affairs; Michael Richard, Hogan’s deputy chief of staff; and Secretary of Agriculture Joseph Bartenfelder.

“There have been two projects that have already been killed in the state of Maryland. we’re going to make this number three,” Short said. “We’re working out the details now and going to find a way to move Apex to the next zone.”

Short said the commissioners are encouraging town councils to write letters of support against the project.

“We’re very well fighting this,” he said. “The more we have, the merrier.”

Galena Councilman John Carroll said Kent County’s landscape will be forever changed with the addition of the wind farm, and that animal life, from livestock to migratory birds, will be threatened.

“Five hundred feet is pretty tall,” said Galena Mayor Sam Sessa.

Carroll also also recommended that council members do research into the matter. He said the wind farm project would affect Kent County as a whole.

“It’s a really big deal for all of us,” he said.

Kent Co: Wind bill fails to get out of committee

By DANIEL DIVILIO | April 14, 2015 | www.myeasternshoremd.com ~~

ANNAPOLIS — State Sen. Stephen S. Hershey Jr.’s bill ensuring local control over a controversial wind farm project failed to get out of committee.

In response to constituent concerns over Apex Clean Energy’s plans to build 25 to 35 500-foot-tall wind turbines in the Kennedyville area, Hershey, R-36-Upper Shore, submitted a bill late in the 90-day General Assembly session ensuring the Kent County Commissioners would determine the project’s fate.

Apex is seeking a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the state Public Service Commission, leaving local opponents of the Mills Branch Wind project concerned that the county will not have a say in the approval process. The bill would have barred the PSC from granting a CPNC to Apex without the county commissioners having first signing off on the project.

In a phone interview Tuesday, April 14, Hershey said the bill was filed late in the session, with little time to get through committee hearings and floor debates in both houses of the state legislature.

He filed the bill March 25 and it was heard by the Senate Finance Committee April 7, about a week before the session’s April 13 end. Had the committee approved the bill, it would have gone to the Senate floor for a vote. If the full Senate voted for it, it would then have started a similar process again in the House of Delegates.

“We were lucky to get a hearing to begin with,” Hershey said.

He said committee members were concerned about setting a precedent granting too much or, in Kent County’s case, sole authority over industrial wind farms.

The good news, Hershey said, is that the chairmen of the Senate Finance and House Economic Matters committees plan to cosign a letter to the PSC, asking for a review of the CPCN process. He said the chairmen want to know how much authority local jurisdictions have and how much weight their concerns carry in the PSC’s decision-making process.

“I think it’s a win for us regardless of not getting the bill,” Hershey said.

Hershey said the finance committee chairman, Sen. Thomas McLain “Mac” Middleton, D-28-Charles, sympathizes with the Kent County Commissioners and local residents over their concerns with Apex’s project. Hershey said the committee heard loud and clear that local residents believe in renewable energy and are incorporating it into the county’s portfolio, but do not want Mills Branch Wind built.

He said two other wind farm projects in the state have been canceled. He said concerns about the Kent County project could lead the state to review its renewable energy portfolio guidelines.

“And I think that’s a good thing for us as we go forward with renewable energy projects,” Hershey said.

He said industrial wind farms may work well in Midwestern states, like Iowa and Oklahoma, that have large swathes of land with plenty of acreage between turbines and people.

“I don’t think they fit in well with what we have here on the Eastern Shore,” Hershey said.

American Farm: Wind energy – the new air apparent (Editorial)

AMERICAN FARM ( April 14, 2015) americanfarm.com 

There’s something about Maryland that appears to be attracting wind farms.

It’s certainly not the wind and that troubles us.

In recent years, proposals have emerged for miles of wind turbine towers to be erected in farmland first in Somerset County and more recently in Kent County.

Needless to say the proposals were met by storms of citizen protest.
The proposed wind farm in Somerset reportedly has been abandoned in favor of a solar project.
The Kent County wind farm is feeling all sorts of heat but at this point, as far as we can tell, it survives.

It’s important to recognize that leasing farmland for wind power development is not a way for a farmer to “make a little bit of extra money.”

If the 26-page lease being offered to farmers in Kent County is anywhere near “standard operating procedure,” the signed document, in specific circumstances, removes control of the farm from the farmers and releases the wind power developer from normal rental responsibilities.

What attracts wind (and solar) power development firms are the enormous federal subsidies which are available in the current search for “clean power.”

In effect, what’s happening here is that federal money — yours and mine — is being used to encourage the buy-up of prime farmland in the name of alternative energy.

What villages of wind towers could do to the appearance of the area’s rural landsape and the resulting depression in real estate values cannot be ignored either.

Recall that sometime ago, a wind farm was proposed in the waters of the Atlantic (no valuable farmland there) off the coast of Cape Cod.

It never got built after environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr., — whom we assume would favor “clean power” —said the towers on the horizon, as seen from the family compound at Hyannis Port, “violated the viewscape.”

Many farmers and ag busnesses in these parts have turned to solar to meet their power needs and with all of this going against them, we are not surprised that Pioneer Green, the Somerset County developer, reportedly has turned to solar and that Apex Energy in Kent County could possibly do the same in the future.

Wind power generation in these parts, where average wind speeds are in the minimum range for turbine efficiency, are far from a sure bet.

The Statute of Liberty stands 305 feet tall from the ground to the tip of the flame. Both wind power proposals estimated their towers would have to be at least 500 feet if they are to capture the maximum, sustained Delmarva winds.

Put one of those babies in your backyard.

USA: Wind costs more than you think due to massive federal subsidies

Randy Simmons, Professor of Political Economy at Utah State University | The Conversation | April 8, 2015 | theconversation.com ~~

As consumers, we pay for electricity twice: once through our monthly electricity bill and a second time through taxes that finance massive subsidies for inefficient wind and other energy producers.

Most cost estimates for wind power disregard the heavy burden of these subsidies on US taxpayers. But if Americans realized the full cost of generating energy from wind power, they would be less willing to foot the bill – because it’s more than most people think.

Over the past 35 years, wind energy – which supplies just 2% of US electricity – has received US$30 billion in federal subsidies and grants. These subsidies shield people from the uncomfortable truth of just how much wind power actually costs and transfer money from average taxpayers to wealthy wind farm owners, many of which are units of foreign companies.

Proponents tend to claim it costs as little as $59 to generate a megawatt-hour of electricity from wind. In reality, the true price tag is more than two and a half times that.

This represents a waste of resources that could be better spent by taxpayers themselves. Even the supposed environmental gains of relying more on wind power are dubious because of its unreliability – it doesn’t always blow – meaning a stable backup power source must always be online to take over during periods of calm.

But at the same time, the subsidies make the US energy infrastructure more tenuous because the artificially cheap electricity prices push more reliable producers – including those needed as backup – out of the market. As we rely more on wind for our power and its inherent unreliability, the risk of blackouts grows. If that happens, the costs will really soar.

Where the subsidies go

Many people may be familiar with Warren Buffet’s claim that federal policies are the only reason to build wind farms in the US, but few realize how many of the companies that benefit most are foreign. The Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University found that, as of 2010, 84% of total clean-energy grants awarded by the federal government went to foreign-owned wind companies.

More generally, the beneficiaries of federal renewable energy policies tend to be large companies, not individual taxpayers or small businesses. The top five recipients of federal grants and tax credits since 2000 are: Iberdrola, NextEra Energy, NRG Energy, Southern Company and Summit Power, all of which have received more than $1 billion in federal benefits.

Iberdrola Renewables alone, a unit of a Spanish utility, has collected $2.2 billion in federal grants and allocated tax credits over the past 15 years. That’s equivalent to about 6.7% of the parent company’s 2014 revenue of $33 billion (in current US dollars).

President Obama’s proposed 2016 budget would permanently extend the biggest federal subsidy for wind power, the Production Tax Credit (PTC), ensuring that large foreign companies continue to reap most of the taxpayer-funded benefits for wind. The PTC is a federal subsidy that pays wind farm owners $23 per megawatt-hour through the first ten years of a turbine’s operation. The credit expired at the end of 2013, but Congress extended it so that all projects under construction by the end of 2014 are eligible.

In all, Congress has enacted 82 policies, overseen by nine different agencies, to support wind power.

I explained in December why Congress shouldn’t revive the PTC, which expired at the end of 2014. In this article, I’m adding up the true cost of wind power in the US, including the impact of the PTC and other subsidies and mandates. It’s part of a study I’m doing of other energy sources including solar, natural gas, and coal to determine how much each one actually cost us when all factors are considered.

Tallying the true costs of wind

Depending on which factors are included, estimates for the cost of wind power vary wildly. On the low end, the financial advisory firm Lazard claims wind costs $59 per megawatt-hour. On the high side, Michael Giberson at the Center for Energy Commerce at Texas Tech University suggests the it’s closer to $149. Our analysis in an upcoming report explores this wide gap in cost estimates, finding that most studies underestimate the genuine cost of wind because they overlook key factors.

All estimates for wind power include the cost of purchasing capital and paying for operations and maintenance (O&M) of wind turbines. For the studies we examined, capital costs ranged from $48 to $88 per megawatt-hour, while O&M costs ranged from $9.8 to $21 per megawatt-hour.

Many estimates, however, don’t include costs related to the inherent unreliability of wind power and government subsidies and mandates. Since we can’t ensure the wind always blows, or how strongly, coal and natural gas plants must be kept on as backup to compensate when it’s calm. This is known as baseload cycling, and its cost ranges from $2 to $23 per megawatt-hour.

This also reduces the environmental friendliness of wind power. Because a coal-fired or natural gas power plant must be kept online in case there’s no wind, two plants are running to do the job of one. These plants create carbon emissions, reducing the environmental benefits of wind. The amount by which emissions reductions are offset by baseload cycling ranges from 20% to 50%, according to a modeling study by two professors at Carnegie Mellon University.

While the backup plants are necessary to ensure the grid’s reliability, their ability to operate is threatened by wind subsidies. The federal dollars encourage wind farm owners to produce power even when prices are low, flooding the market with cheap electricity. That pushes prices down even further and makes it harder for more reliable producers, such as nuclear plants, that don’t get hefty subsidies to stay in business.

For example, the Kewaunee Nuclear Plant in Wisconsin and the Yankee Nuclear Plant in Vermont both switched off their reactors in 2013. Dominion Energy, which owned both plants, blamed the artificially low prices caused by the PTC as one of the reasons for the shutdown.

As more reliable sources drop off and wind power takes their place, consumers are left with an electrical infrastructure that is less reliable and less capable of meeting demand.

Lost in transmission

Another factor often overlooked is the extra cost of transmission. Many of America’s wind-rich areas are remote and the turbines are often planted in open fields, far from major cities. That means new transmission lines must be built to carry electricity to consumers. The cost of building new transmission lines ranges from $15 to $27 per megawatt-hour.

In 2013, Texas completed its Competitive Renewable Energy Zone project, adding over 3,600 miles of transmission lines to remote wind farms, costing state taxpayers $7 billion.

Although transmission infrastructure may be considered a fixed cost that will reduce future transmission costs for wind power, these costs will likely remain important. Today’s wind farms are built in areas with prime wind resources. If we continue to subsidize wind power, producers will eventually expand to sub-prime locations that may be even further from population centers. This would feed demand for additional transmission projects to transport electricity from remote wind farms to cities.

The final bill comes to…

Finally, federal subsidies and state mandates also add significantly to the cost, even as many estimates claim these incentives actually reduce the cost of wind energy. In fact, they add to it as American taxpayers are forced to foot the bill. According to Giberson, federal and state policies add an average of $23 per megawatt-hour to the cost of wind power.

That includes the impact of state mandates, which end up increasing the cost of electricity on consumer power bills. California is one of the most aggressive in pushing so-called Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), requiring the state to consume 33% of its electricity from renewables by 2020. Overall electricity prices in states with RPS are 38% higher than those without, according to the Institute for Energy Research, a non-profit research group that promotes free markets.

The best estimate available for the total cost of wind power is $149 per megawatt-hour, taken from Giberson’s 2013 report.

It is difficult to quantify some factors of the cost of wind power, such as the cost of state policies. Giberson’s estimate, however, includes the most relevant factors in attempting to measure the true cost of producing electricity from wind power. In future reports, Strata will explore the true cost of producing electricity from solar, coal, and natural gas. Until those reports are completed, it is difficult to accurately compare the true cost of wind to other technologies, as true cost studies have not yet been completed.

Blowing in the wind

The high costs of federal subsidies and state mandates for wind power have not paid off for the American public. According to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, wind energy receives a higher percentage of federal subsidies than any other type of energy while generating a very small percentage of the nation’s electricity.

In 2010 the wind energy sector received 42% of total federal subsidies while producing only 2% of the nation’s total electricity. By comparison, coal receives 10% of all subsidies and generates 45% and nuclear is about even at about 20%.

But policymakers at the federal and state level, unfortunately, have decided that the American people will have renewable energy, no matter how high the costs. As a result, taxpayers will be stuck paying the cost of subsidies to wealthy wind producers.

Meanwhile, electricity consumers will be forced to purchase the more expensive power that results from state-level mandates for renewable energy production. Although such policies may be well intended, the real results will be limited freedom, reduced prosperity and an increasingly unreliable power supply.

Megan Hansen, a Strata policy analyst, co-authored this article.

Kent Co: Conservation group joins fight against wind farm

April 11, 2015 | www.myeasternshoremd.com ~~

CENTREVILLE — Queen Anne’s Conservation Association April 1 initiated action in opposition to the Apex Energy Wind Turbine project for 49 500-foot industrial wind turbines near Kennedyville between scenic route MD 213 and the Chester River. QACA filed a Public Information Act request with the Kent County Government seeking disclosure of more information about the project and its developer.

QACA Executive Director Jay Falstad stated: “In filing our PIA request, we are taking a first step to join with Washington College, the citizens of Keep Kent Scenic, and the Kent County Commissioners themselves in their unanimous opposition to this almost unbelievable project. The proposed field of turbines, with their 164-foot blades atop 333-foot pylons, will put multiple skyscraper-tall structures into the undeveloped lands of the Eastern Shore, thereby despoiling a historic landscape, creating a wall of destruction for migrating birds, and impinging on the skyscapes of Queen Anne’s and other neighboring counties. We cannot let this happen.”

Falstad attended a meeting on March 21, organized by Keep Kent Scenic, and learned that the project, because it was subject to permitting by the Maryland Public Service Commission, apparently did not need to conform to the Kent County Comprehensive Plan and zoning laws that protect farmland from heavy industrial development.

Afterward, Falstad was able to secure a copy of the APEX Land Lease and Wind Easement agreement that a handful of landowners have already entered into.

“This lease is about as one-sided as I’ve ever seen,” said Falstad. “Essentially, the landowner is handing over control of his property to APEX — or whoever APEX ultimately sells its rights to.

“Take the provision [1.2(c)], for example, where the landowner grants APEX an easement to ‘generate electromagnetic, audio, flicker, visual, view, light, noise, vibration, air turbulence, wake, electrical, radio interference, shadow or other effects attributable to the Facilities or any other operational or development activities.’ That says that if you find your property has become a place where human beings can no longer live safely and comfortably, and therefore isn’t saleable, don’t complain to us, you agreed to it.

“Same thing with farming the property: once the turbines are up, the lease says that APEX ‘shall not be responsible to pay Owner any losses of income, rent, business opportunities, profits or other losses arising out of Owner’s inability to grow crops or otherwise use the portion of the Property occupied by Wind Facilities pursuant to this lease’ (Sec. 6.2).”

“This environmentally destructive project,” Falstad continued, “has nothing to do with good alternative forms of electric power generation, like solar, but instead is a reckless grab for federal subsidies for a thoroughly bad project in a totally inappropriate place. And because the APEX lease is so invasive to the landowner’s property rights, getting people to sign these leases amounts to federally subsidized takings of farmland.

“Like the massive federal anti-terrorism training facility proposed for Ruthsburg in Queen Anne’s County a few years ago, this project would destabilize and devalue rural land in the whole Mid-Shore region. We fought that one off, and now we are gearing up to stand with the leaders and citizens of Kent County in fighting this project with everything we have.”

Kent Co: Kent County resists wind turbines

By John Curran, Elm Staff Writer | The Elm | April 10, 2015 | elm.washcoll.edu ~~

News and discussion regarding the construction of 49 wind turbines in Kent County has reached an all-time high. From local business owners and farmers to Interim-President Jay Griswold, the issue is one that has caught the attention of countless county residents.

With many of its building’s powered geothermally, WC is an example of an institution that embraces the use of clean energy. However, the recent fervor surrounding Apex Clean Energy’s wind turbine project demonstrates that perhaps not all clean energy is created equal.

Operating out of Charlottesville, Va., bold text on Apex Clean Energy’s home page reads “accelerating transition to a world powered by clean electricity.” Founded in 2009, the company caters to communities, businesses and landowners alike through the construction of clean energy wind turbine farms. The company has been involved in wind farm construction all over the country in Arizona, Texas, Illinois, and New York.

The response from residents to the project has been highly negative. A unanimous rejection of the project during a Kent County Commissioners meeting on March 24 has signaled the start of a battle between the county and Apex Clean Energy for authority over the situation. Much of the consternation has come from the county’s lack of control and oversight of the project. Despite a unanimous decision by the county to reject the project and as petitions from local residents, the project can still proceed. This is because the final say on the project falls under the jurisdiction of Maryland’s Public Service Commission who have received a building application from Apex Clean Energy.

The ability of Apex to directly approach the Public Service Commission is seen by many as a circumvention of the law and a loophole that needs fixing. In response to the decision made by the Commissioners, Maryland State Senator Stephan Hershey has drafted a senate bill meant to combat the tactics employed by Apex. The bill will advocate for the inclusion of the local community in deciding whether or not the project will proceed, and transfer final control of the project from the the Public Service Commission to the county.

According to Apex, if constructed, the turbines would be capable of producing up to 100 milliwatts of electricity, which in turn is enough to power 30,000 homes per year. The project would also see up to 100 full-time jobs created during the construction period and as many as eight permanent operation and maintenance jobs thereafter. Farming impact is expected to be minor with the 500 foot turbines mostly taking up vertical space. Integration with local electrical systems would eliminate the need for any major new infrastructure.

However, many in the local community, including, Interim Griswold, see the approach taken by Apex Clean Energy as devious. “At Washington College we value ‘unhurried conversations’ where all sides of an issue can be explored and discussed before a decision is made,” He wrote in an email sent out to the entire college on March 31.

The email focused on three reasons to reject the project, including Apex’s questionable tactics, the potential adverse impact that wind turbines could have on the scenic qualities of Kent County, and the potential threat the turbines could pose to migrating waterfowl. Additionally, a link to an online petition was provided in the email which had yet to meet its goal of 200 signatures at press time. Griswold also suggested members of the WC community spend April 7 in Annapolis where the Senate Finance Committee held an open-to-the-public hearing for SB 938 at 1 p.m.

Beyond WC, one of the many forms of protest in that has been in the form of the website, www.keepkentscenic.org. The website includes the header “Keep Kent Scenic,” accompanied by a picture of wind turbines set up amidst farm land and the caption, “Don’t let this happen.” The website is further comprised of a series of pages outlining the negative impacts of the turbine construction, such as lowered property values or the potential for eminent domain abuses, accompanied by a plea to residents to protest the project.

This is very much at odds with the Apex website dedicated to the Kent County Project, or “Mills Branch Wind,” as they have named it. “In the long-term, the project promises to bring sustained tax revenue to the county for the local government and schools, as well as 25 years of local purchasing, employment, and investment,” the website states beneath the heading, “Why Kent County.”

What started as a project to bring clean energy to the county has now transformed into a debate between Apex Clean Energy, the Kent County community, and the local legislature.

For more information on the issue www.millsbranchwind.com outlines Apex Clean Energy’s plans, while www.keepkentscenic.org looks at the matter from a different viewpoint. Finally, for those interested in signing the petition to support senate bill 938, that can also be found online at www.ipetitions.com.

 

Kent Co: Wind farm discussion continues to heat up

  Thursday, April 9, 2015, By DANIEL DIVILIO ddivilio@thekentcountynews.com myeasternshoremd.com ~~

CHESTERTOWN — Concerns continue to grow over a proposed wind farm in the Kennedyville area, with local residents and officials seeking to keep Apex Clean Energy from building 500-foot-tall turbines in the heart of Kent County’s farming community.

Apex is seeking to lease land from property owners between state routes 213 and 291. The Virginia-based company plans to put 25 to 35 turbines in the area for its Mills Branch Wind project.

A grassroots organization called Keep Kent Scenic formed about a month ago. It launched a website, keepkentscenic.org, highlighting locals’ concerns about the project.

Judy Giffords, owner of St. Brigid’s Farm, shown here, is concerned about the potential effects a proposed wind farm in the Kennedyville area could have on her dairy herd.  Photo by EDWIN REMSBERG

Judy Giffords, owner of St. Brigid’s Farm, shown here, is concerned about the potential effects a proposed wind farm in the Kennedyville area could have on her dairy herd. Photo by EDWIN REMSBERG

Judy Gifford has a dairy operation, St. Brigid’s Farm, in the area the turbines are to be located. Using the Keep Kent Scenic website as a starting point, she has been researching wind farms, and what she has found has her very concerned.

Speaking last month in an interview, Gifford said prime farmland is being taken up in Kent County for very cheap. She said those property owners who have signed up with Apex are not going to pocket very much money from the project.

Those who favor the prospects for green energy from wind turbines should do more research, Gifford said, because what they will find would scare them.

“People really need to be informed,” she said.

As a dairy farmer, Gifford is very concerned about the effects wind turbines may have on her herd. She pointed to stray voltage — the unintentional release of electricity in the area around a generating source of power.

A commonly cited concern with stray voltage is when an animal, such as a cow, completes an electrical circuit by touching an inadvertently electrified water trough while standing on a wet concrete floor. The shock is not fatal, but may lead to behavior changes in the animal.

“The impact to dairy farms is frightening,” Gifford said.

Gifford said turbines are inefficient and produce power at times when it is not needed. She said the focus should be on improving the energy efficiency of homes and upgrading existing power plants.

“I just can’t believe this is coming to our community,” Gifford said of Mills Branch Wind. “I see absolutely no benefit.”

Gifford is thankful for the local officials and volunteers who worked on various studies, ordinances and Kent County’s comprehensive plan, establishing a set of regulations and priorities for alternative energy.

The county allows 120-foot wind turbines for personal use only, not 500-foot turbines for industrial energy production. Apex representatives have said they are required to go through the state’s Public Service Commission for approval, leaving residents here concerned about the company skirting local control over the project.

Ensuring local control led county officials and others to Annapolis Tuesday, April 7 to testify before a state Senate committee. The hearing was for a bill submitted by state Sen. Stephen S. Hershey Jr., R-36-Upper Shore, that would require the Kent County Commissioners to sign off on the wind farm before the PSC could allow Apex to proceed.

Speaking in a phone interview before the hearing, Wayne Gilchrest, director of the Sassafras Environmental Education Center and former 1st District congressman, said he has concerns about the project, the most significant being local control over the approval process.

Like others in the community, he questions whether there is enough wind in the area to make the project viable. He worries about the potential for issues with noise, migratory birds and farm aviation.

He also questions whether or not the project would be financially viable without alternative energy subsidies meant for permanent projects replacing coal plants. Apex is looking at termed leases with farmers, not permanent agreements.

“The alternative energy working group, the Kent County Commissioners, the community at large, I think, needs a process in which they can make a significant, thoughtful contribution to the Apex project and to alternative energy options as well,” Gilchrest said.

While some siding with Keep Kent Scenic are discounting wind farms as a viable source of alternative energy, Gilchrest sees value in them.

“Given our stage of development of alternative energy technologies, then pursuing wind turbines is an important mix into the whole transition away from fossil fuels. So in certain places, the industrial-grade wind turbines can be appropriate. In other places, fewer or smaller-scale wind farms would be equally, if not more appropriate with a mix of solar and geothermal,” Gilchrest said.

Sabine Harvey, a horticulture specialist with the University of Maryland Extension, said she, personally, is concerned about how quickly some members of the community jumped in opposing the project. In an April 7 interview, she said people should take their time and make an informed decision.

In this age of electronics, energy demands are high. Harvey said moving away from fossil fuels requires a replacement power source.

“I just want people to think about it a little bit because you can’t have it both ways” Harvey said.

Harvey has not made a decision on whether she favors Apex’s plans or not. She does have a “major problem” with the apparent lack of local control over the project.

College and QACA
In a pair of letters, Washington College interim President Jack “Jay” Griswold voiced his concerns over the Mills Branch Wind project to the Washington College community and state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. Seeking support for Hershey’s bill, he suggested community members sign an online petition in favor of Hershey’s bill or take a vacation day to testify at the bill’s April 7 hearing.

“At Washington College, we value ‘unhurried conversations’ where all sides of an issue can be explored and discussed before a decision is made. Apex Clean Energy will short-circuit the opportunity with local residents,” Griswold wrote to the community, adding that Hershey’s bill would close the “loophole” allowing Apex to circumvent the county approval process.

Griswold also outlined his concerns over how the project will ruin Kent County’s “rapidly disappearing” scenic beauty with 49 turbines taller than the Legg Mason Tower in Baltimore and about the potential destruction a “wall of turbine blades” would have on migratory waterfowl.

“It will despoil one of Maryland’s great-undeveloped landscapes — a landscape that remains much as it did 233 years ago when Washington College was founded under the patronage of our nation’s first president. We will not be able to reclaim this natural heritage once it is lost,” he wrote in his letter to Miller.

Queen Anne’s Conservation Association joined the fight against Apex late last month when it reportedly filed a Public Information Act request with Kent County government regarding Mills Branch Wind.

“In filing our PIA request, we are taking a first step to join with Washington College, the citizens of Keep Kent Scenic, and the Kent County Commissioners themselves in their unanimous opposition to this almost unbelievable project,” QACA Executive Director Jay Falstad said in an April 1 news release.

According to the release, Falstad has reviewed a copy of the lease agreement landowners are signing with Apex. He said the leases are one-sided, forcing landowners to hand over control of their property to Apex.

“This environmentally destructive project has nothing to do with good alternative forms of electric power generation, like solar, but instead is a reckless grab for federal subsidies for a thoroughly bad project in a totally inappropriate place. And because the Apex lease is so invasive to the landowner’s property rights, getting people to sign these leases amounts to federally subsidized takings of farmland,” Falstad said.

Local Organizations
In an April 6 interview, Sal Agostino, president of the Sassafras River Business Council, said he not seen enough about Mills Branch Wind to form an opinion on the project. He suggested, though, that officials work on finding a way of using it to promote Galena.

Agostino is familiar with the material Keep Kent Scenic is posting in opposition of the project. He said it shows there are real concerns about it.

“There’s a lot of negative things about it, so it’s something that really needs to be thought of and I think everybody needs to work together,” Agostino said.

Sassafras Riverkeeper Emmett Duke said Apex does not plan on placing any wind turbines within the river’s watershed. Regardless, he said members of the Sassafras River Association have conflicting opinions on the Mills Branch Wind project.

“We’re getting members who are commenting for and against. So we can’t say that we have a consensus that we can represent by taking a public stand on it,” Duke said April 6.

Likewise, the Chester River Association is not taking a stance on Mills Branch Wind.

“CRA is not taking a position on the wind farm because it does not directly impact water quality. In order to make an impact on advancing improvements in the health of the Chester, we really need to stick to what we do,” Executive Director Anna Wolgast wrote in an April 6 email.

Kent Co: Letters – Local control

Local control  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015, myeasternshoremd.com ~~

Throughout the United States — not just in Kent County, not just in Maryland, but everywhere — regardless of whatever other federal or state agency approvals may also be required for a project, land use matters are decided at the local level.

The reason is a sound one. Members of any county, through their elected and appointed local officials, are in a much better position than federal officials in Washington, D.C. or state officials in Annapolis to decide issues that have a significant impact on the nature and character of their community.

In keeping with this principle, Kent County’s leaders thoughtfully considered and adopted rules applicable to renewable energy projects proposed to be built here, among other reasons, in order to preserve the historic and rural nature of our county for the benefit of all. Those rules, codified in Kent County’s land use ordinance, include requirements applicable to construction projects generally and wind power projects specifically.

And, regardless of your position on renewable energy or wind power projects — whether for, against or undecided — everyone in Kent County, including our county officials, should be able to agree, and should be willing to do everything to ensure, that every project in the county, including the one proposed by Apex Clean Energy, must satisfy the county’s land use ordinance requirements.

Ronald Fisher,  Kennedyville, MD

Kent Co: Council backs county on wind bill

By DANIEL DIVILIO | April 7, 2015 | www.myeasternshoremd.com ~~

GALENA — State Sen. Stephen S. Hershey Jr. received the support of the Galena town council for a bill he submitted in the General Assembly relating to a wind farm proposal in Kent County.

The town council unanimously agreed to submit a letter of support for Hershey’s bill to fellow backers, the Kent County Commissioners.

Apex Clean Energy plans to build 25 to 35 wind turbines, each about 500 feet tall, in the Kennedyville area. If approved in the General Assembly, Hershey’s bill would ensure the county commissioners, not the state, retain approval authority over the project.

“It appears as though they’re trying very hard to push this on us. I, for one, don’t think it’s a good idea, to put it mildly,” Mayor Sam Sessa said of Apex and its Mills Branch Wind project.

Councilman Jason Conner suggested the town write a letter.

Former mayor Harry Pisapia said the council previously avoided taking stances on projects outside its jurisdiction.

“You’re representing the people of the town. There may be people in town that are for it, and you’re saying the town’s against it,” Pisapia said. “I agree with you. I don’t like it either.”

Councilman Kirk Blackard said the council previously offered its support when individual farmers sought approval of 120-foot-tall turbines in the county.

Sessa said he thinks the Apex project will have an impact on the town. He said every resident who has spoken to him with knowledge of Mills Branch Wind has opposed it.

Councilman John Carroll said the project is on the agenda for the April 15 Council of Governments meeting in Betterton. The organization comprises representatives from all the local governing bodies in Kent County.

There was a question as to who to send a letter, the county or the state Public Service Commission, which is the agency expected to review Apex’s application.

“You might have to address your concerns to the state or whoever is the ultimate approving authority,” Town Attorney Tom Yeager said.

Resident Bill Graham, who organized Keep Kent Scenic in opposition of Mills Branch Wind, said Apex has not yet engaged the PSC. He suggested the council send a letter joining the county commissioners in opposition of the project.

“The company’s been here two years, schmoozing the farmers,” Graham said. “This is a real project now.”

He said Keep Kent Scenic has sent letters to all the municipalities seeking their support in opposition of Mills Branch Wind.

“I’m thinking it might not hurt to keep an eye on it at this point,” Sessa said.

Yeager said the council could adopt a resolution stating its opposition to the wind farm.

Sessa questioned the need to officially state a position on the project.

Yeager said the council could state its support for Hershey’s bill.

“I think that would be a very good choice,” Sessa said.

Carroll made a motion to send a letter of support for Hershey’s bill to the county commissioners. The motion carried unanimously.