Cumberland Times-News

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December 12, 2013

Md. Public Service Commission gives go-ahead for construction of 15 turbines on Backbone Mountain

OAKLAND — During an administrative meeting Wednesday, the Maryland Public Service Commission approved Fair Wind Power Partners LLC’s application to construct up to 15 wind turbines on Backbone Mountain — but with conditions.

The PSC approved the construction of the Type III generators based on Fair Wind Power Partners compliance with all state and federal laws regarding endangered species, including filing the results of a completed environmental and endangered species mitigation plan within 30 days of those results, according to David Collins, executive secretary with the PSC. Several residents voiced concerns that the wind project would just be an extension of the Criterion Wind project, which is the deadliest industrial wind project in North America for bats and birds.

“It is well known that the two other wind projects on Backbone Mountain in Maryland kill thousands of migrating bats and hundreds of birds annually,” wrote the Savage River Watershed Association Board of Directors to Collins. “The cumulative effects of bat and bird mortality of such projects are staggering, and concerns have been expressed about possible endangerment of hoary, red and silver-haired bats from the proliferation of these projects.”

A study of the Criterion Wind project that was conducted by Criterion Power Partners LLC from April to November 2012 determined that 28 birds representing 12 species and 82 bats representing five species were found either during standardized carcass searches or incidentally during the study period. The most commonly found bird species were red-eyed vireo and golden-crowned kinglet, while Eastern red bat and hoary bat accounted for the majority of the bat fatalities found. 

An Incidental Take Permit is required under the Endangered Species Act when activities will likely result in the killing or disturbance of a threatened or endangered species.

The Type III generators are exempt from the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity requirement, according to Collins.

Fair Wind Power Partners is also required to file a listing of the transmission system improvements required by PJM, a regional power transmission organization, as well as a listing of the interconnection requirements of the interconnecting transmission line owner with the PSC two weeks prior to putting any portion of the project in service.

Fair Wind also must list any upgrades to the transmission system that are required to be in service after the start-up. Any expansion of the project, including more turbines, higher output or integration with any nearby wind generation facilities, is subject to further review by PJM and the PSC.

The project, which would generate 30 megawatts of electricity, is slated to begin in the spring of 2014 and be operational in 2015.

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