The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is holding hearings on whether to allow a private wind company to lease state land for a wind farm.
A Pennsylvania company, U.S. Wind Force, is asking the state for leases in Potomac and Savage River state forests so it can clear about 400 mountaintop acres and erect about 100 wind turbines, each about 40 stories tall. The turbines would be visible from Deep Creek Lake and much of Western Maryland.
The agency has moved the first public hearing from an elementary school, which had a small capacity, to the larger Garrett College Auditorium at 687 Mosser Road in McHenry. This hearing has been moved back a week, from the original Jan. 23 date to Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m.
The second hearing, also postponed for a week, will now be will held at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 31 in Room 161 of the Arundel Center, 44 Calvert St. in Annapolis.
Comments may also be submitted online.
I generally support the use of wind power as a source of cleaner energy, but this project seems dubious to me. One concern with wind power is what effect turbines may have on birds in a particular location, particularly during migration. The most obvious threat is the possibility of birds hitting the turbines. A more insidious threat is the reduction of habitat by 400 acres, and the degradation of surrounding forest with the introduction of more edge areas. Answering that concern would require significant field research; I would hope that the DNR would have that data on hand before granting permission for the project. (There is at least some cause for concern.)
My second concern is the use of public land for private gain. State parks and forests should primarily benefit the public – by conserving natural resources, preserving historic sites, and providing opportunities for recreation. Some commercial use of public lands is acceptable. For example, I would certainly endorse leasing fields for agriculture in WMAs since the practice benefits both the leaseholder and wildlife. A 400-acre wind farm is something else entirely. It would present a substantial and permanent intrusion into one of the wildest areas of Maryland. All of the profits would go to the energy company while the citizens of Maryland would be left with a smaller state forest and possibly less wildlife.
Overall, I think this is one project that the DNR should drop. What do you think?
7 January 2008
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