Wind energy turbines set to be built in Somerset County

March 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

EASTON — A project to bring wind energy to the Eastern Shore likely will be completed by the end of 2015, unless a bill in the Maryland General Assembly delays it.

The Great Bay Wind Project is a different project than one planned to go off the coast of Ocean City. It is being developed by Pioneer Green Energy.

Instead of being based in the ocean, the Great Bay Wind Project’s turbines would be built in Princess Anne in Somerset County.

Paul Kasemeyer, who works for the law firm representing Pioneer Green Energy, Schwartz, Metz and Wise, said $3 million in investments over the span of about four years have been dedicated to the project, along with negotiations with the Naval Air Station Patuxent River on turbine height.

“Our company chose this project and this location largely because of the really high power prices that exist on the Eastern Shore, some of the highest power prices in the state,” Kasemeyer said. “A large majority of that power is being imported from out of state, from coal plants, and there’s really a need and demand to generate power on the Lower Shore.”

From the economic development side of things, Kasemeyer said there are huge benefits for the Shore in terms of job creation and construction, more than can be serviced by just Somerset County itself.

According to a 2012-13 Jacob France Institute study, Kasemeyer said, there would be more than 500 jobs created on the Lower Shore. Also, the study suggested the project would add $13.2 million to labor income and generate a total of $66.8 million in additional economic activity for Somerset County.

“The real benefit for the county in the long term is going to be a really massive influx of tax revenues,” Kasemeyer said. “The turbines are taxed in property taxes and to the structure. Over the life of the project, the project will be paying over $40 million in tax revenues directed to Somerset.”

He said the project is aiming to be environmentally responsible and fit in with the goals of the Lower Shore. To that end, he said, the Delmarva Poultry Institute has written a letter saying it would be a benefit to the chicken and soybean farmers as a way to diversify their income. He said it would be a new revenue stream for all in the county.

Though Kasemeyer said power rates would stay about the same under wind power, the nature of the project allows the company to project what power prices under wind energy will be for the next 30 years. Also, he said after the project life has ended in about 30 years and the turbines need refurbishment, the infrastructure and capital will be there, which would reflect in the rates.

However, Kasemeyer said, a bill currently pending in the Maryland General Assembly would “kill our project” if passed.

The bill, House Bill 1168, is being sponsored by the southern Maryland delegation. It would put a moratorium on approving or undertaking construction of wind energy projects until July 1, 2015.

Sen. Jim Mathais, D-38-Lower Shore, said about the wind energy moratorium bill, “I think we can work it out.”

“When we talk in this room about the farmers that wake up at 4:45 in the morning to try and figure out how they’re going to do it, how they’re going to survive the poultry tax, how they’re going to survive phosphorus management, how they’re going to get additional revenue out of their land, and people come in earnest with the federal government at the head that talks about renewables, with a governor that talks about renewables, with people in this very room that fight renewables,” Mathais said. “We’re not going to stand up for what we believe in?”

Mathais said the project could provide industrial base expansion in one of the poorest counties in the state.

Del. Jeannie Haddaway, R-37B-Talbot, said after meeting with Gov. Martin O’Malley, committee chairmen and bill sponsors, she requested that the bill be moved to a subcommittee “so that we have more of an opportunity to try to work out something that will be beneficial to everyone, but certainly look forward to all of us working together to try and find out what that solution is.”

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