St. Mary's Considers Amendment to Allow Wind Power Generation

By Guy Leonard, County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (Aug. 7, 2008)—The prospect of allowing home owners in St. Mary’s County to generate their own electrical power using a private wind turbine could be one step closer to reality after the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to send the authorizing zoning text amendment to public hearing.

The text amendment, if approved, would allow homeowners to use a system that amounts to a type of windmill that could generate up to 100 kilowatts of electricity on a piece of property at least half-an-acre in size.

The ordinance would allow for a tower to be built that was 150 feet or less to support the blade of the turbine, according to information from county government.

The prospect of opening up new alternative energy sources to cut down power costs for homeowners was especially attractive to Commissioner Lawrence D. Jarboe (R-Golden Beach).

“It’s a great idea,” Jarboe told The County Times. “It’s free energy and you can’t beat the price.”

St. Mary’s County’s proximity to the water also opened up the possibility of harnessing the sea as well as wind to provide electricity, Jarboe said.

“We could become a center for alternative energy,” he said. “Its time [alternative energy] has come.”

One local man who has been pushing for authorization to begin his own wind power project is hoping for the best with the text amendment’s approval.

Rich Johnson, of Valley Lee, said he started his project back in April and is just waiting for the text amendment to pass to have his turbine shipped in.

The power used by his residence racks up a big bill every year, he said.

“We’ve been drawing about 35,000 kilowatts a year,” Johnson said. “And that translates into about $5,000 a year.

“I’m just trying to save my pocket book.”

Johnson said he had investigated the solar power option for his home but said he had to wait too long for the payback benefits to have any effect, but wind power seemed to be the right choice.

“The more I looked into it the better it looked,” Johnson said.

The company that provides the operating system he has chosen, Wind Turbine Industries Corporation, states that at about 10 miles-per-hour of operation the system can produce 19,700 kilowatt hours, Johnson said.

At 12 miles-per-hour the system can push upwards of 33,000 kilowatt hours of electrical power, he said.

“Conservatively, I’ll save about 60 percent on my bill easy, quite possibly up to 96 percent,” Johnson said.

In other business the commissioners also passed a tax credit for homeowners who voluntarily install a sprinkler system in their homes to suppress fires.

The tax credit allows for either a $1,500 credit for voluntarily installing a new system in new home or a $2,000 payment to retrofit an existing home.

The ordinance applies to one-or-two-family dwellings and the tax credit is good from February of 2008 to February of 2011.

The ordinance intent is to encourage owners of homes built in rural parts of the county, that are not required to have a sprinkler system installed because they were on private wells, to do so.

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