Cumberland Times-News

August 27, 2013

PSC defers decision on company’s request for more time to build wind turbines atop Dan’s Mountain

Deadline to begin construction Sept. 12; firm seeks Dec. 31

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — The Maryland Public Service Commission on Tuesday deferred for one week action on a request from Dan’s Mountain Wind Force LLC that its deadline to start building wind turbines be extended until Dec. 31, 2014.

The company said it could not comply with a Sept. 12 start date and contacted the PSC in July asking for more time to put 25 wind turbines atop Dan’s Mountain.

PSC staff recently recommended approval of the extension request, saying the company had ironed out financial problems.

The Exelon company has agreed to fund turbine construction and eventually purchase the project from Dan’s Mountain Wind Force.

“Given the financial support that should be provided by Exelon, staff recommends that the commission grant the motion to extend the deadline for the start of construction,” wrote Michael A. Dean, a PSC attorney.

The company said, as well, that additional time is needed to deal with restrictive zoning laws approved by Allegany County in 2009.

The firm had originally planned to build 25 turbines, but said only one would qualify after the county-approved new setback requirements.

For example, a turbine higher than 300 feet would be required to be 900 feet from a property line and 2,000 feet from an occupied residence.

Should PSC’s ruling favor DMWF, the company is expected to seek an exemption by appealing to the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

The two regular board members are Julia Williams and William Powell. John Brant is an alternate member.

Any appeal would have to be made three weeks ahead of a scheduled board hearing to be on the agenda, according to David Dorsey, the county’s acting planning coordinator.

“The appeal would have to include a site plan for review by staff and board members. It would also have to include documentation from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that certain wildlife impacts would not take place,” Dorsey said. Plans to protect bats and birds, specifically eagles, are required.

“This would be a new process. A request for an exemption has not been put into action before,” Dorsey said.

DMWF may also seek a variance of up to 50 percent in setback requirements if enough neighboring landowners agree in writing.

“While the negotiations are as yet ongoing, in light of the initial responses we are getting, I am confident that Dan’s Mountain will be able to obtain a sufficient number of written authorizations to make the project viable,” wrote David K. Friend, CEO of Laurel Renewable Partners LLC, the owner of Dan’s Mountain Wind Force.

In the request for an extension, the company indicated that the existing group of county commissioners is more turbine-friendly than the previous administration.

Sitting commission president Michael McKay reacted to that by saying, “I don’t know where they get that. This set of commissioners is not going to be getting into undoing or trying to change requirements already set. The community has already had that conversation.

“This issue was put to rest by the previous board. It’s not on our agenda,” McKay told the Times-News earlier this month.

DMWF told the PSC that the Dec. 31, 2014, date was requested to allow enough time to obtain relief from the county zoning ordinances and any court action that may arise from that effort.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.