- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

BALTIMORE (AP) Three energy companies are seeking state or federal approval to erect scores of giant windmills in the Western Maryland mountains and off Ocean City.
Proponents call wind farms a clean source of energy, but opponents say the towers up to 300 feet high with three-bladed turbines would endanger migratory birds and mar some of Maryland's prettiest scenery.
The state's review begins Wednesday, when the Public Service Commission is expected to assign file numbers and hearing examiners to the two Western Maryland projects, submitted by U.S. Wind Force of Baden, Pa., and Clipper Windpower Inc. of Goleta, Calif.
Winergy LLC of Shirley, N.Y., which is planning the wind farm off Ocean City, has not filed anything with the PSC but has submitted plans to the Army Corps of Engineers for up to 350 towers on concrete platforms about 3 miles from shore.
The developers say the windmills will generate clean power, help cut back on foreign oil imports, and create jobs and tax revenue in Western Maryland, which has high unemployment.
"We think we'll be beautifying our site," said Thomas Matthews, president of U.S. Wind Force, which wants to build 25 wind turbines on some former strip mines southwest of Cumberland atop Big Savage Mountain in Allegany County.
Mr. Matthews said the towers west of Lonaconing would range in height from 213 feet to 328 feet, and that each would have a turbine mounted on it generating enough power for 500 homes.
Opponents say the towers will pose a danger to birds and create eyesores visible from Deep Creek Lake and Ocean City.
Robert McIntire, a Baltimore lawyer who was born and reared in Garrett County, and owns property there, said Clipper Windpower's proposed 67 towers along a 10-mile stretch of Backbone Mountain will mar the beautiful views.
"This is going to have a major impact on Deep Creek Lake, one of the state's premier resort areas," he said.
Bird enthusiasts also are concerned.
"They're just ready to sacrifice whatever scenic beauty they have to. It's the greed factor at work," said Floyd Presley, who holds a federal permit to capture and place bands on hawks and other predatory birds for tracking by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The retired engineer said Big Savage Mountain is a flyway for golden eagles and a habitat for red-tailed hawks and peregrine falcons. All would be put at risk by the towers, he said.
John Sherwell, of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' Power Plant Program, said the agency will consider those issues in its review of the projects.
Environmental groups say they generally support wind farms because they are a clean source of power.
"I am concerned about seeing these towers all over the place, but it'll be a clean energy source and also bring jobs, which is a big issue out here," said Sam White, chairman of the Sierra Club's Western Maryland chapter.
John Bianci, a spokesman for the Audubon Society in New York, said: "We're on the side of caution, but we think they're a good idea overall."
The Fish and Wildlife Service is requiring the developer of a proposed windmill project in Grant County, W.Va., to conduct an environmental study. Developer NedPower would have to monitor bat and bird deaths for at least three years after construction of the turbines.
The federal agency also wants all windpower projects to use white strobe lights instead of red lights to warn airplanes of the towers. Studies have shown that white lights are less attractive to flying and migratory birds.

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