- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 28, 2002

RED HOUSE, Md. Western Maryland mountains that still are mined for coal soon could support a wind-energy industry as well.
At least two companies are considering putting giant windmills atop some of the Appalachian ridges that cut across Allegany and Garrett counties.
"Western Maryland has a significant natural resource in the wind," said Thomas Matthews, president of U.S. Wind Force. "I think you will see more wind energy developers looking toward Western Maryland in the future."
His company, based in Baden, Pa., hopes to be the first to erect wind-driven power plants on the ridge tops, similar to wind farms planned or already built in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Both U.S. Wind Force and Clipper Windpower of Goleta, Calif., have inquired about Maryland's permitting process, but neither has made a formal application, said John Sherwell of the state's Power Plant Research Program. His office, within the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, oversees environmental reviews of power plant proposals pending before the state Public Service Commission.
Perhaps the best winds for power generation blow in the Dakotas and Rocky Mountain states, but "the problem is, nobody lives there," Mr. Matthews said. "In Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, you can draw a circle 250 miles in radius and find a population of 40 million people" connected by power transmission lines.
He said U.S. Wind Force could decide within the next two months whether to file an application for a wind farm straddling the Allegany-Garrett county line. The undisclosed location would be south of two wind farms in Somerset County, Pa., where developers are seeking to erect more of the 10-story towers topped by three-bladed turbines.
Mr. Matthews said U.S. Wind Force also is considering a site owned by Mettiki Coal Corp. atop Backbone Mountain near Maryland's highest peak. The Mettiki site, near the southern tip of Garrett County, lies north of a West Virginia location where U.S. Wind Force is seeking to build the largest wind-powered generating plant on the East Coast 166 turbines generating 250 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 250,000 homes for a year.
In comparison, AES Corp.'s coal-fired power plant in Allegany County produces 180 megawatts and burns 600,000 tons of coal a year.
Clipper Windpower was less forthcoming about its plans. Kevin Rackstraw, the company's Bethesda-based director of East Coast project development, said Clipper is studying some undisclosed Western Maryland sites but "we've got quite a ways to go."
The flurry of projects and inquiries may reflect the impending expiration of a federal tax incentive that subsidizes wind-power generation at about 1.7 cents per kilowatt, Mr. Sherwell said.
He said Congress could extend the tax break beyond its scheduled expiration at the end of 2003, "but people are sort of grabbing what they know they're going to get rather than waiting to see what they could be grabbing later."
Wind farms have detractors who consider them unsightly or decry the loss of birds killed by the whirling blades, especially offshore. The Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group, considers such problems an acceptable trade-off for clean energy, said Charles Garlow, energy chairman of the group's Maryland chapter.
"We're trying to encourage more people to buy their electricity from wind power, in hopes there will be more demand for it and less demand for dirty coal power and other polluting sources of electricity generation," Mr. Garlow said.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide