Bill Burton wanted a windmill in his backyard.
Not as decoration, and certainly not to chase away birds, for Bill was their dedicated friend. No, he wanted windmills because he believed our future depends on them as one no-longer optional choice we must make to save our planet.
“Should we persist in ignoring global warming, there’s more than a good chance that future generations won’t be able to make up for time lost.” Burton wrote those words in his Earth Day 2008 Bay Weekly column, which continued his discourse on wind as our best hope for harnessing no-carbon-footprint energy (www.bayweekly.com/year08/issuexvi16/burtonxvi16.html).
In windmill terms, as close as Burton could get to his home on Stoney Creek was the mountains of western Maryland. So he got mad as hell when Gov. Martin O’Malley nixed windmills on state-owned land on mountaintops in Garrett County.
“What?” Burton wrote in that same column. “Where else can windmills work but high enough to catch the winds? This is not about aesthetics. It’s about a clean energy resource. Windmills on public lands make a start and set an example.”
This week, Anne Arundel County got a lot closer to making the start Burton demanded. Indeed, we got closer on two fronts.
One front is right in Burton’s backyard. The other is down county a bit on Greenbury Point above Annapolis.
We can erect a windmill right in our own backyards, all seven members of the Anne Arundel County Council agreed this week. The issue was brought to a vote by a virtual Burton neighbor up in Pasadena. Richard Hawes wanted to put up a couple of windmills, and he got a permit — but neighbors said NIMBY and the Board of Appeals agreed.
In its July 19 meeting, the County Council gave Hawes and all wind-loving Anne Arundel citizens permission to harness the wind with windmills as tall as 125 feet — though with public hearings and approvals on properties smaller than three acres.
Do you hear that cheer echoing from Arlington National Cemetery as Burton shouts hallelujah from his grave?
To make it easier to cheer with him, let me invite you to go with me on a field trip to Potomac Wind Energy’s homesite in Dickerson, Maryland, where 10 windmills of different sizes and brands are on display.
For the best proof that we can live with windmills as good neighbors, “come and look with your own eyes, and bring your neighbors and anyone else who has an open mind,” says the company’s Carlos Fernandez.
On the second front, the U.S. Naval Academy has indicated it will proceed with a site-specific wind energy study on the feasibility of erecting six or so much larger wind turbines among the three remaining towers at Greenbury Point.
That’s the biggest step forward in a project quietly under discussion for over two years. Alpha Energy, a wind company headquartered in Annapolis, is behind the proposal, which is being championed by Del. Ron George.
The news of the Academy’s big step was announced by George and Alpha principals Marcellous Butler and Christopher Burgess this week at the Severn River Association’s monthly meeting, where the three made a presentation.
The turbines could power as many as 6,000 households, or most of Annapolis — though that’s an indirect measure, as their production would go either to the Academy directly or meld into the grid.
If it happens, it could be Maryland’s first big step into wind.
Will it happen?
“If any place on the Maryland Bay is going to capture wind energy,” Burgess told Bay Weekly, “Greenbury Point is the top candidate, in terms of size, proximity to the wind resource and the open community embracement we’ve experienced so far.”
So, Bill Burton, the wind may be blowing our way.