- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 26, 2002

HAGERSTOWN, Md. State regulators want developers of two proposed wind power plants in Western Maryland to shut the giant turbines when the whirling blades could kill large numbers of migratory birds.
The provision, apparently the first of its kind in the nation, was created to balance the interests of wildlife advocates and wind power developers, who are racing to build the plants by Dec. 31, 2003, when a federal tax incentive expires.
Paul Massicot, director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' resource assessment services division, said last week that agency officials support the companies' hurry-up efforts but want contingency plans in case of problems.
"The last thing we want to happen at a wind energy plant is a big environmental problem," he said.
One of the companies U.S.Wind Force of Baden, Pa. has agreed to shut its proposed windmill farm in Allegany County a maximum 18 hours a year if the 25 turbines kill more than 200 birds or bats per windmill in a 24-hour period, said Thomas Matthews, the company president.
The other company Clipper Windpower of Carpinteria, Calif. is talking with Maryland officials about the proposal to shut the company's 67 turbines in Garrett County a maximum 53.7 hours a year if they kill the same number of bats and birds, said Kevin Rackstraw, the company's director of East Coast development. "We're trying to move things along, and we want to be as cooperative as we can," he said.
The shutdowns would be likely to occur for several hours when the threat to wildlife is greatest.
The proposed period for Clipper is longer because scientists think more birds are at that site, atop Backbone Mountain, Maryland's highest ridge.
Both projects are awaiting approval from the state's Public Service Commission. Public hearings are scheduled Jan. 7 for the Clipper project and Jan. 14 for the U.S. Wind Power project.
Mr. Massicot agreed with developers who say a significant number of bird deaths are not expected at either site.
However, bird and bat deaths have been associated with wind farms and communications towers elsewhere, especially on overcast nights when migrating birds, apparently lost without the stars, circle lighted towers.
Because of the approaching tax deadline, state regulators recommended that bird mortality be monitored after the plants are built rather than delaying construction until more studies are completed, Mr. Massicot said.
The Sierra Club wants the opposite a delay in issuing permits and more studies, said Charles Garlow of the club's Maryland chapter.
Casper R. Taylor Jr., Allegany County Democrat and outgoing Maryland House speaker, said he strongly disagrees with the provision because overzealous bird protection could hamper development of such projects.

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