Wind Turbine Request Could Lead To County Regs

WEST OCEAN CITY –

Monty Lewis just wants to put up a wind turbine at his bayside home, but Worcester County has been less than helpful, until

this week.

 “The county has more or less put me off,”
Lewis said. “I can’t apply for it because they won’t take an application.”

Lewis has been thinking of
adding a wind turbine to his home since the 1970s, when he moved into the
property, but costs were too high. He has had a small wind turbine on his boat
for several years, which charges a batter.

Lewis said he would like to
proceed with the installation and has even signed a contract with a wind
turbine company, but cannot get the go ahead from Worcester County.
The county code has no language permitting wind turbines, which means they are
legally prohibited.

The County Commissioners
declined to consider wind power regulations earlier this month, saying that
wind power can wait until the comprehensive rezoning is completed this spring.

Lewis is concerned over losing a
chance at Maryland Windswept grants that subsidize wind power installation.
Other counties are using that money, he said.

“I don’t know when that’ll be
depleted or whether that’ll be re-funded,” Lewis said. “I really wanted to get
this done this fall.”

Lewis’s property appears ideal
for wind power, with the Isle of Wight Bay on three sides and only one, distant
neighbor who will not be disturbed by the wind turbine. “I’ve got room and a
good location where the wind blows,” he said.

Once installed, the turbine
should pay for itself in six years, or less, as electric rates continue to
increase. The wind power should take care of half the property’s electric
needs.

Lewis spoke to all seven of the County Commissioners,
and until recently has been advised to just wait.

“That’s not acceptable,” said
Lewis, who signed a contract in late July for the $15,000 improvement.

There are two wind turbines in
the county now, on agricultural land near Pocomoke, apparently put up without
permission.

Commissioner Bobby Cowger
mentioned their existence earlier this month at a commission meeting. Lewis has
visited the farm and looked at those turbines in his research. Cowger also said
then that no one really wants to install turbines, so there is no rush to
codify their use.

According to Lewis, other people
are interested, but they are waiting on the commissioners to make a decision
and set up a process.

“Ms. [Kelly] Henry [county
zoning administrator] was very, very clear. I’m not allowed to do that and I’m
not to do it,” said Lewis.

Lewis said he told the
commissioners he would undertake the wind turbine on a trial basis, pledging
that he would take the wind turbine down if there are any problems.

“I think it’s a good thing. I
don’t really know how well it will work until I try it,” Lewis said. “I’m
willing to gamble the money to try it. I know a lot of people have not wanted
to gamble the money.”

Lewis’ request has led to the
county changing its stance from two weeks ago.

“It’ll be on the agenda when we
go back in on Oct. 7,” said Commission President Virgil Shockley.

New regulations for wind
turbines could be introduced during the Oct. 21 legislative session.

Deciding what to permit and
where to permit it is the key, Shockley said.

“You’ve got to define it,” he
said. “I want to do it right the first time. We need to do something because
people are going to do this.”

 

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