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50 miles of turbines could not replace one coal plant

There’s potential between Garrett and Allegany counties to erect about 500 skyscraper-sized wind turbines. Constellation Energy (formerly Clipper Wind) has already received permission from the state’s Public Service Commission to construct 40 2.5MW turbines in the southern part of Garrett atop Backbone Mountain, from Eagle Rock south to Table Rock. The Maryland PSC also has approved 24 1.75MW turbines for US Windforce at Savage Mountain on the Garrett border in Allegany County. Synergics, a company from Annapolis, has requested up to 24 1.75MW wind turbines for the Roth Rock area of Backbone Mountain, although the PSC has not yet approved this project. Synergics is evidently seeking to build another 20+-turbine wind plants along Four Mile Ridge in Garrett near Frostburg.

According to the Baltimore Sun, US Windforce is prospecting for an additional two wind plants on state forest land in Garrett County: one, a 40-50 turbine project on Backbone Mountain near the center of the county close to Deep Creek Lake and the Savage River Reservoir, and the second, a 50-60 turbine facility along Meadow Mountain, visible from Grantsville. US Windforce is planning several other wind projects, one of which is not yet identified, the other likely located on Dan’s Mountain below Frostburg in Allegany County. Altogether US Windforce plans a total of five wind plants in the region, two on public lands and three on private land–with a total of 160-200 wind turbines.

Constellation Energy: 40 turbines; US Windforce: 160-200 turbines; Synergics: 45-50 turbines. Consequently, of the 500 potential wind turbines, these three companies are now planning to erect between 240 and 290.

If 290 turbines were built, they would extend for about 50 miles. If all were erected on forested ridges, each would require from 4-6 acres of clear-cutting to reduce wind disturbance, most of which would also require extensive dynamiting. Altogether, because of the additional requirements for new roads and other infrastructure support, they would displace or disturb approximately 5,500 acres. Given their height, from 400 to 462 feet, and their placement atop high ridges, they would be visible everywhere in Garrett and western Allegany counties.

Together, they would annually contribute, very sporadically, about 145MW into a grid with an annual peak generation of about 140,000MW, or .001 of the grid’s total. Because they would provide no capacity value, they could not replace a single coal plant.

Jon Boone


The Republican Newspaper

31 January 2008