The public will have until March 3 to respond to the issue of putting wind power on public lands in Maryland.
“We’ll be compiling and reviewing all comments,” Olivia Campbell, media relations manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said Thursday. “I expect the decision to be made shortly after the comment period.”
Public meetings were held Wednesday and Thursday in McHenry and Annapolis for the public to comment on the issue of placing wind turbines on state forest land.
Campbell said there is no policy in Maryland for this use of public lands, and that is the reason for the hearings and comment period.
Crissy Godfrey, program manager for the Maryland Energy Administration, renewable energy, presented the current situation of energy consumption and supply in the state Wednesday night at Garrett College.
Godfrey explained that while there has been a 15 percent growth in development in the state, energy generation has only increased by 1.9 percent. She said that PJM, the grid operator for Maryland, is anticipating summertime blackouts as early as 2011.
John Sherwell of the DNR Power Plant Research Program said that DNR recognizes the possible problems as well as positive points with bringing the turbines onto state forest land, including the impacts visually, culturally and ecologically. However, he said that the avoided emissions of carbon dioxide – that would be put off by a more traditional power plant – for a wind power plant the size of that proposed for Meadow Mountain would be the equivalent of taking 20,000 cars off the road.
Campbell said that even if the decision is made to proceed with wind power on public lands, it does not mean that the wind turbines will appear overnight. Because the land is public land, there would be a series of surveys done on the area and the ecosystem at the sites, and the public would have additional opportunity for comment.
The project would require a bidding process for wind power companies to use the property and the final bid would have to go before the state Board of Public Works.
Frank Maisano, spokesman for a coalition of wind power developers, said that people with all opinions would likely weigh in on the issue. On Thursday, he reiterated his statements made at the meeting Wednesday night.
“I was serious that the public lands are public lands for everyone, not just Garrett County,” Maisano said. “People ought to have the very same standing. … The reality is that everyone speaks from their heart.”
An overwhelming majority of those present at the meeting Wednesday were opposed to the inclusion of wind facilities on public lands.
Comments are being accepted online at www.dnr.state.md.us/sustainability/wpm.
By Sarah Moses
1 February 2008
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