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Military's worries tangle plans for offshore wind farm

Gov. Martin O'Malley's desire to build offshore wind turbines as part of Maryland's renewable energy program is running into an unexpected source of resistance: the military. The fear is that turbines placed in the Atlantic Ocean could disrupt flight and weapon test ranges, as well as erroneously appear on radar as unidentifiable aircraft, which could trigger false alarms in an era of high terrorism alerts, military officials said.

Gov. Martin O'Malley's desire to build offshore wind turbines as part of Maryland's renewable energy program is running into an unexpected source of resistance: the military.

The fear is that turbines placed in the Atlantic Ocean could disrupt flight and weapon test ranges, as well as erroneously appear on radar as unidentifiable aircraft, which could trigger false alarms in an era of high terrorism alerts, military officials said.

"When you start to place turbines out in the Atlantic Ocean, they will create an artificial image on the radar, and we might not be able to see aircraft because we think the aircraft is really the turbine spinning around out there," said Todd Morgan, president of the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance, a group of civic leaders that works to enhance relations between the Navy and the community.

Representatives of the U.S. Navy command and the state's naval community shared their concerns Nov. 18 in Baltimore with officials of the Maryland Energy Administration, the Department of Business and Economic Development and others.

Attendees said that they hoped a middle ground could be reached.

"I think there's plenty of room and opportunity to... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Gov. Martin O'Malley's desire to build offshore wind turbines as part of Maryland's renewable energy program is running into an unexpected source of resistance: the military.

The fear is that turbines placed in the Atlantic Ocean could disrupt flight and weapon test ranges, as well as erroneously appear on radar as unidentifiable aircraft, which could trigger false alarms in an era of high terrorism alerts, military officials said.

"When you start to place turbines out in the Atlantic Ocean, they will create an artificial image on the radar, and we might not be able to see aircraft because we think the aircraft is really the turbine spinning around out there," said Todd Morgan, president of the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance, a group of civic leaders that works to enhance relations between the Navy and the community.

Representatives of the U.S. Navy command and the state's naval community shared their concerns Nov. 18 in Baltimore with officials of the Maryland Energy Administration, the Department of Business and Economic Development and others.

Attendees said that they hoped a middle ground could be reached.

"I think there's plenty of room and opportunity to have shared usage," said Ross J. Tyler, the state energy administration's director of clean energy. Other states are facing the same challenges on how to balance such interests, he said.

On Nov. 10, O'Malley (D) joined with the Democratic governors of Virginia and Delaware to launch a collaborative effort in harnessing vast offshore wind resources in the mid-Atlantic region. Officials also have touted the potential to create thousands of jobs.

The development of offshore wind farms is critical to meeting O'Malley's standard of producing 20 percent of the state's energy through alternative sources by 2022.

Three major military installations -- Patuxent River Naval Air Station in St. Mary's County, Wallops Island on Virginia's Eastern Shore and Oceana Naval Air Station in the Hampton Roads region -- regularly use the airspace off the Atlantic coast for training missions and flight testing, Morgan said.

At the meeting, both parties indicated a desire to not sacrifice one side's interests for the other.

"Our first and foremost mission is to keep the base going and keep it vibrant," Morgan said. "Anything that gets in the way, we're going to be there and not jump on something just because it's a green initiative."

Although renewable energy is a worthwhile initiative that could save money in the long term, it is not worth risking billions of dollars in economic investment that the Navy spends in Maryland each year at Patuxent and elsewhere, Morgan said.

"I'm optimistic that all this can be accomplished and think the Navy left more sanguine about finding a solution," said J. Michael Hayes, managing director of the Department of Business and Economic Development's Office of Military and Federal Affairs.

St. Mary's County drafted a zoning amendment last year that permits small, home-based wind turbines that do not interfere with operations of the Patuxent River base.

Navy officials "don't say yes or no, but they provide feedback," said Robert R. Schaller, the county's economic and community development chief. Protecting the interests of Pax River, by far its largest employer, is the county's foremost concern, he said.

Although it is unclear where wind turbines off Maryland's coast would be built or whether the location would interfere with naval operations, Tyler said Virginia has identified a site near Oceana.

To date, one offshore wind energy project has received approval in Delaware. None has been approved in Maryland or Virginia. It could take anywhere between two and six years for such a project to become operational, depending on how quickly federal regulatory hurdles can be cleared and how fast a developer is procured.

The region has some of the strongest winds on the East Coast, and the development of offshore turbines would go a long way toward meeting the governor's renewable energy goal, Tyler said. No offshore wind turbines operate in the United States.


Source: http://www.washingtonpost.c...

DEC 3 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/23432-military-s-worries-tangle-plans-for-offshore-wind-farm
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