WESTOVER, Md. - Wind turbines could start popping up in Somerset County as early as next year; however, it all depends on how fast developers behind the green project get what's called an eagle-taking permit for the proposed wind farm in Westover.
There are concerns about protecting bald eagles in that area. Developers with Pioneer Green Energy, in partnership with The Great Bay Wind Energy Center, spent the last four years working on conservation eagle plans along with a layout of ways to avoid and minimize impacts, according to Adam Cohen, vice president of the company.
The U.S. Wildlife Service conducted an environmental assessment at a public information session Wednesday night, to address potential impacts of the permit.
Late Wednesday evening, Cohen said the agency decided to move forth with the process. The measure will reduce company liability for any turbine eagle-related deaths, something that's quite rare.
Cohen said the project will be divided into a couple of phases. The first would consist of 25 turbines that will rest on 10,000 acres of land.
"Our hope would be maybe a second phase of 10 to 15 more turbines in the project," Cohen said.
Some county residents like Marc Duncan look forward to it.
"I see a lot more benefit in having the wind turbines bring down our cost in energy and stabilizing our energy supply," Duncan said.
Developers expect the $200 million project to provide clean, renewable energy to residents. They also expect the wind farm to contribute millions of dollars in tax revenue.
Despite early projections, the proposal faced a few challenges first.
The Naval Air Station had prior concerns about aircraft interference from the turbines. The spinning blades could be picked up by a neighboring radar system a few years ago.
Health concerns proved to be another issue as well. Ryan Taylor, a bioacoustics expert at Salisbury University, said people who live near wind farms could suffer from what is called "wind turbine syndrome." That condition includes side effects of dizziness, nausea, headaches and loss of sleep.
Public comments and concerns about health and safety were addressed at Wednesday night's meeting.
The company hopes to get the permit by the end of this year. Developers want to start construction in early 2015.