Developer says wind plan will fly in Annapolis

10 turbines envisioned for former Navy communications site along the Severn River

October 05, 2008|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,chris.guy@baltsun.com

Nearly a decade after the Navy retired and dismantled 19 communications towers along the Severn River, a fledgling energy company is planning to build wind turbines that would turn the near-constant breeze there into electricity.

David Murrin, a merchant mariner who has formed a partnership with his lifelong friend, developer and marina owner Marcellous Butler, wants to build up to 10 high-tech windmills near the Naval Academy at Greenbury Point - enough, he said to provide power for as many as 10,000 homes.

Despite the current financial crises, the partners have investors lined up to back the $30 million to $40 million project, Murrin said.

"We haven't finished organizing the company, but we've built a team with financial experience and some who have worked with wind farms," said Murrin., who would not identify potential investors. "We have had to hold people back with a fire hose, there's that much interest in the concept."

After developing the plan for nearly three years, Murrin and Butler met last month with county and federal officials and business leaders to outline the proposal.

Del. Ron George, a Republican from Arnold, contacted a dozen or more officials and organized the meeting.

"We think this is definitely a doable project," said George. "This is at the very beginning stage, but it's got tremendous potential. They've been working on this for three years."

The Navy, which owns the land at Greenbury Point, has not taken a position on the proposal.

"We're certainly aware of the interest," said Philip A. Molter, a spokesman for Naval District Washington, which oversees support operations in Annapolis. "At this stage, there doesn't seem to be much to say without a firm proposal."

County officials, however, are intrigued by what they've heard about the plans.

The 300-foot tall turbines would be about half the height of the three county-owned communications towers at the site, Murrin said.

The county has used remaining towers from the former naval radio transmitter facility on the peninsula as relay towers for its 800-megahertz emergency radio system, said Fred Schram, central services officer for Anne Arundel County.

"It's been a great asset for the county because we don't have communication dead zones anymore, even in rural parts of the county," he said.

The county must decide whether wind turbines would affect the communications towers. Of the turbine proposal, Schram said, "We'll see how it goes along from this early stage."

The radio towers, known to locals as the "Eiffel Towers," provided key defense communications to U.S. ships and submarines during World War II but ceased broadcasting in 1996. The Navy bought the property - where the Wright brothers had tested experimental planes - in 1909.

The next step in the turbine proposal, Murrin said, would be to install more sophisticated equipment to verify average daily wind speed and direction. The site is considered among the best anywhere on the bay, he said, averaging 11.3 knots (about 13 mph) of daily wind speed. To be effective, he said, the turbines require an average wind speed of at least 10 knots.

Murrin says infrastructure is in place to connect turbines to a regional electrical grid.

Molter, the Navy spokesman, said a Navy engineering analysis would have to be conducted to determine whether the existing infrastructure can handle the amount of power the turbines might generate. Ultimately, the Navy would decide the proposal's fate.

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