CHESTERTOWN — Keep Kent Scenic and Queen Anne’s Conservation Association, two citizen-supported groups committed to farmland preservation, have created an alliance and entered into an agreement to cooperate in opposing the Apex industrial wind turbine project in Kent County. The project calls for the installation of up to three dozen 500-foot tall steel pylons with rotating blades on 5,000 acres of farmland between Kennedyville and Galena along scenic Route 213, on land close to the Chester River.
Under the cooperation agreement, signed by William Graham for KKS and QACA Board Chairman Caroline Gabel, QACA will provide staff assistance to KKS and, until KKS obtains its 501(c)(3) designation from the IRS, receive and disburse tax-deductible contributions from citizens opposing the Apex project.
KKS has established a website (keepkentscenic.org) to communicate news and updates about the Apex project and to disseminate studies of the effects of industrial wind turbines on farming, human health, ecology and property values.
QACA Executive Director Jay Falstad said, “We are happy to be working with our friends in Kent County to stop this ill-conceived project, because if it were to come to pass, it would destabilize the farm economy and rural character, not just of Kent County, but of the whole Upper Shore. At an earlier time in the last century, we were once the Kent-Queen Anne’s Conservation Association, and now it’s time once again for conservation-minded residents of our two counties to work together to protect this unique region of the Eastern Shore.”
Both organizations have begun preparing for the anticipated round of regulatory proceedings and have made initial contacts with some the agencies likely to be involved, such as the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation, which has rules carefully controlling non-agricultural uses of preserved farmland. Options under active study also include legislation to preserve local control over private industrial uses of farmland and litigation to safeguard landowners’ ancient “right of quiet enjoyment” of their property.
Graham said, “The local control issue is very important here. Five years ago, Kent County formed a Task Force to make recommendations for renewable energy, including wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. Using data from the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Task Force concluded: ‘There does not appear to be sufficient wind in this area to justify utility scale wind farms, and for this and other reasons, the task force determined that utility scale wind energy is neither a feasible nor desirable use for Kent County.’ That’s why our local law limits wind energy systems to much smaller installations that do not try to produce power for off-site sale. Our County’s carefully considered decision on this subject ought to be respected.”
Falstad added, “As part of our joint effort, QACA and KKS are keeping abreast of developments elsewhere in the country and overseas. In Falmouth, Mass., industrial wind turbines located 1,385 feet or more from a private residence have recently been found to constitute a nuisance that a court has ordered to be abated. In Australia, University of Adelaide engineers in a May 2014 report found that existing regulations “do not protect the health and sleep of the neighbours to these wind developments, out to nearly 10km from the closest wind turbine” (emphasis added). These new findings are important, because Apex says its Kent County project will be designed with a minimum setback from dwellings of only 1,200 feet.
“If you have noise inside your home (including, as in Falmouth and Australia, ‘low frequency noise’) coming from wind turbines, are you just annoyed and inconvenienced, or are there more serious effects on your health and happiness? That’s been much disputed by the wind energy industry, but just last October the Board of Health in Brown County, Wisconsin, unanimously declared that eight 500-foot industrial wind turbines in a town there were ‘A Human Health Hazard for all people (residents, workers, visitors, and sensitive passersby) who are exposed to Infrasound/Low Frequency Noise and other emissions potentially harmful to human health’. That declaration came after three families reportedly had vacated homes they still own and 75 people had complained of headaches, nausea, ear pain, vertigo, and sleep deprivation.
“We’re watching all this closely,” Falstad concluded. “The Apex project, if it were built, would likely drive some Kent County families off their farms. Then, as others begin to shun the Upper Shore as a place to farm, and as property values begin to decline, we’ll start to see the destruction of a rural environment that we should have preserved for future generations of farmers, farm produce consumers, and vacationers. KKS and QACA are determined not to let that happen.”
In addition to Queen Anne’s Conservation Association and Keep Kent Scenic, the Apex/Mills Branch Wind Turbine project is also opposed by The Kent County Commissioners, Washington College and the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy.