Political brawn like Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D), Ben Cardin (D), and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) have weighed in on what began as a state debate about a proposal by Texas-based Pioneer Green to build 25 wind turbines in Somerset County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Their influence, and Hoyer’s testimony before a Maryland Senate committee, likely helped convince 143 state lawmakers to pass a bill postponing the wind company’s plans to move forward until further study could be completed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The question was, how disruptive would the impact generated by wind frequency be to radar testing at Patuxent River Naval Air Station?
Navy and industry partners collect measurements, based on aircraft movement over the Chesapeake Bay, in part to determine the stealth of fighter jets.
But Maryland legislators seemed to have lost that fight when Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) vetoed the measure Friday. O’Malley said he cared about Pax River, but that its greatest threat was rising sea levels caused by climate change.
“I am committed to developing renewable energy in our state, including wind,” Hoyer said in a statement emailed by a staffer Wednesday. “But we must do so in a way that does not threaten our unique capabilities at Pax River.
“I continue to urge the Navy to wait for the MIT study to conclude so that they can look at technologies that could allow them to conduct operations in an undiminished way,” Hoyer said. Pioneer Green has said it could turn turbines off, up to about 1,500 hours a year, while the Navy is testing. But even slight test delays could hurt scheduling and cost millions to some of the fleet’s most advanced aircraft programs, such as Joint Strike Fighter, Pax supporters say.
A Navy sustainability report for test ranges this year says turbines near Pax River could threaten operations. However, Navy spokeswoman Lt. Richlyn Ivey also said the Navy continues to work with Pioneer Green to find a solution.