Cumberland Times-News

February 14, 2013

Wind project hits snag with FAA

Synergics anticipates issue to blow over

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— FROSTBURG — A Federal Aviation Administration in-terim determination does not authorize the construction of any of the 24 proposed wind turbines in the Fourmile Ridge wind project in eastern Garrett County because the turbines are presumed to be a hazard to air navigation, according to a letter from the FAA to Synergics, the owner of the project.

The FAA doesn’t approve the construction of the turbines, even at a reduced height.

“There is a potential conflict with an existing but scheduled to be deactivated radar antenna,” said Frank Maisano, a spokesman for the Synergics project. “It is being worked out with the FAA and we anticipate a solution that does not entail moving the turbines or any changes to the project as proposed.”

Synergics intends to enter into commercial operations by Dec. 31.

The Fourmile project development schedule is not expected to be impacted by the FAA interim determination, according to Maisano.

The internal study by the FAA revealed that all 24 wind turbines are within 3 1/2 nautical miles of a Very High Frequency Omni Directional Radio Range and Tactical Air Navigation Aid, known as the Grantsville VOR, located in Avilton.

Interference may occur from large structures or power lines up to 2 nautical miles from the antenna, according to the FAA letter.

However, wind turbines are a special case in that they may cause interference up to 8 nautical miles from the antenna.  

The VOR is used as a primary approach for the Garrett County Airport and is used as feeder fix navigation aid for the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport, according to Robert Armstrong, who currently flies for Allegheny Wood Products in Petersburg, W.Va.

Armstrong said that, although VORs are still in use, they are not being used as much as a primary navigation aid due to budget constraints and the existence of GPS.

If more than 60 days elapses since Feb. 5 without a resolution, Synergics will have to reactivate the study by filing a new FAA form, according to the letter.

FAA approval is needed before the county can issue a building permit.

Synergics has submitted both a concept plan and site development plan to the county, which are currently under review.

There is no time frame for the county to complete the review. Both plans are part of the county’s stormwater management ordinance requirements.

In January, Annapolis-based Synergics sought fast-track approval of the project from the Maryland Public Service Commission.

In that filing, Synergics Wind Energy LLC and Fourmile Wind Energy LLC included a request for a waiver of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity requirements for a tap line to serve the project.

On Feb. 6, Synergics and Fourmile Wind Energy filed a revised request for a loop line to serve the project, according to PSC filings.

The revised request is still asking that the waiver be granted by April 1.

The loop line will include two steel, dead-end structures and poles located on a right of way already owned by the Potomac Edison Co.

The revised request also includes a construction cost increase from an estimate between $230,000 and $260,000 to $340,000 and $360,000.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.