It has been almost a year since the Kent News published a front-page article announcing Apex Clean Energy plans to establish an industrial wind turbine farm near Kennedyville. So where does this project stand today? In the article, Tyson Utt, an Apex development director stated that 25 to 45 wind turbines up to 500 feet tall would be erected if wind conditions were found favorable and land leases were obtained.
Industrial turbines of this height are required to be registered with the FAA, which studies their locations for possible impact on aviation safety.
Since that article was written, the total number of industrial wind turbines have increased to 49, at a height of 497 feet as shown in the FAA Project Listing together with their map coordinates on 32 properties.
While details of industrial wind turbine leases are kept secret by the wind power industry, landowners are reported to get an upfront one time payment of $2,500 per MW turbine installed and a percentage of the energy sold during the estimated 30-year life of the turbine and their lease. The guaranteed annual income starts at $10,000. increasing slowly, at 2.5%/year, ending at an average yearly payment of $14,600 after 30 years. The most vocal advocates going forward for this ugly blight will without a doubt be those landowners with early Apex leases. This is a typical strategy by the industry to assure a motivated base of local support.
Who gains? Certainly the landowners as well as Apex investors reaping US and Maryland tax incentives funded by taxpayers, which includes you and me. Some would say Kent County needs clean energy. Well, the electrical output is fed into the Mid Atlantic Regional Transmission Grid operated by PJM and sold to the highest bidder. Don’t expect lower rates. Kent County will gain tax revenues from the capital improvement, which will decline as the installation depreciates over several decades. Decreased tax revenues from residents with properties devalued due to the turbines will more than offset this gain. Who pays for eventual demolition has not been addressed. Local hires for construction may add temporary jobs, if workers are not imported by Apex. Some low level of staffing by Turbine Maintenance Technicians (know any in this county?) will be required and likely supplied by out-of-state contractors.
Who loses? With a forest of wind turbines visible up to 25 miles away, Kent County tourism will no longer enjoy its scenic resource, and historic properties and homeowners can expect a big hit on property values. The 49 wind turbines of this industrial power project will dominate the Mid Atlantic skyline reaching almost as high as Baltimore’s tallest building, the Transamerica Tower. Our waterfowl, raptors, and bats will be killed in large numbers.
Powerful forces will be aligning against the citizens of Kent County in spite of our strong zoning laws restricting the height of turbines, and in direct opposition to the intent of our Comprehensive Plan. The Maryland Energy Office has a full time Wind Energy Project Manager and staff whose mission is to harness Maryland’s governmental power to facilitate wind developers in getting approvals for their projects. The local landowners with turbine leases and their families, having monetary incentives, will line up behind Apex and put up a furious fight to move this project forward.
Other green energy sources less obtrusive, such as solar, are available and desirable for Kent County. It’s time for us to find out where our Commissioners and the County Administrator stand on the Mills Branch Wind Energy project.