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Wind power official says W. Md. project depends on credits

The Maryland Public Service Commission heard testimony Wednesday on whether to use a new state law to grant fast-track approval for a Garrett County wind power project.

The PSC staff has already recommended approval of the Backbone Mountain project. The commissioners did not indicate when they will decide.

Criterion Power Partners LLC, a subsidiary of Clipper Windpower Inc., said in February it would reduce the project to 28 turbines and 70 megawatts, which would make it small enough to qualify for the fast-track approval process implemented last year to make Maryland friendlier to wind power developers.

However, company officials say whether the company decides to go ahead with the project also depends on whether Congress extends wind power tax credits.

If the tax credits are not extended, electricity costs would have to be about 30 percent higher to cover the more than $120 million cost of the project, said Kevin Rackstraw, a Clipper Windpower executive.

“I can’t speculate whether that would be possible, but it certainly would be much more difficult,” Rackstraw said.

Oakland resident Jon Boone testified against the proposal, saying wind power is an unreliable source of energy that hasn’t been proven to have any benefit. Boone said before the hearing that he and neighboring landowners are concerned about noise that will be generated by the wind farm and resent outside interests trying to build projects they wouldn’t propose in other parts of the state.

Clipper Windpower is based in Carpinteria, Calif.

Peter Saar, an attorney with the Office of the People’s Counsel, which represents the interests of consumers before the commission, said his office had “found nothing that we can point to as a fault” in the evaluation process.

While several wind farms have been proposed for Western Maryland, none has been built. The Criterion project would be built atop Backbone Mountain, Maryland’s highest ridge, south of Oakland and the Deep Creek Lake resort area.

Associated Press

Maryland Daily Record

23 April 2008