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PSC grants wind farm exemption

The Maryland Public Service Commission approved on Wednesday to grant Dan's Mountain Wind Force an exemption from the full regulatory review process. The commission added two key conditions. Frank Maisano, a spokesman for the wind energy industry, said in an e-mail that Dan's Mountain Wind Force must work with a local telecommunications provider to ensure there is no microwave interference with telecommunications towers on Dan's Rock. The wind company also must work with the state Department of Natural Resources.

Dan's Mountain turbine project takes ‘important step forward'

CUMBERLAND - The Maryland Public Service Commission approved on Wednesday to grant Dan's Mountain Wind Force an exemption from the full regulatory review process.

The commission added two key conditions. Frank Maisano, a spokesman for the wind energy industry, said in an e-mail that Dan's Mountain Wind Force must work with a local telecommunications provider to ensure there is no microwave interference with telecommunications towers on Dan's Rock. The wind company also must work with the state Department of Natural Resources.

In a letter Monday, Paula M. Carmody, of the Office of the People's Counsel, said DNR recommended the commission "pay close attention to issues of public safety and health, such as ensuring adequate setbacks of the wind turbines from nearby property lines and ensuring that the project would be in compliance with state noise regulations and that it would not contribute to shadow flicker in neighboring occupied residences."

In a news release distributed by Maisano, U.S. Wind Force President Tom Matthews called the commission's ruling "another important step forward for this $142 million project that will offer... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Dan's Mountain turbine project takes ‘important step forward'

CUMBERLAND - The Maryland Public Service Commission approved on Wednesday to grant Dan's Mountain Wind Force an exemption from the full regulatory review process.

The commission added two key conditions. Frank Maisano, a spokesman for the wind energy industry, said in an e-mail that Dan's Mountain Wind Force must work with a local telecommunications provider to ensure there is no microwave interference with telecommunications towers on Dan's Rock. The wind company also must work with the state Department of Natural Resources.

In a letter Monday, Paula M. Carmody, of the Office of the People's Counsel, said DNR recommended the commission "pay close attention to issues of public safety and health, such as ensuring adequate setbacks of the wind turbines from nearby property lines and ensuring that the project would be in compliance with state noise regulations and that it would not contribute to shadow flicker in neighboring occupied residences."

In a news release distributed by Maisano, U.S. Wind Force President Tom Matthews called the commission's ruling "another important step forward for this $142 million project that will offer tremendous economic development opportunities for Western Maryland."

"It will create 150 to 200 much-needed construction jobs, a small number of permanent operations and maintenance jobs and inject, on average, more than $400,000 in property tax revenues into Allegany County," Matthews said.

The commission conducted a public hearing at Frostburg State University in January to gather input on the industrial project, which could reach up to 29 wind turbines and generate less than 70 megawatts at full build-out. The Dan's Mountain project would be 69.6 megawatts. Administrative Judge Joel Bright said the hearing's purpose was to consider whether the safety and reliability of the grid system is not jeopardized.

If not, Bright said, the project would qualify for an exemption from the full regulatory review process to obtain a Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience. Bright noted at the time that the PSC's ruling would not override or supersede local zoning restrictions.

County Planning Coordinator Phil Hager said he wasn't sure Bright's assessment was accurate. Until the 2007 legislative session, he said, "the burden was on the state to identify whether there were problems. By the action of the General Assembly allowing these uses to proceed in an expedited manner, all the review responsibilities fell to the counties."

Hager said any conditions imposed by the PSC might impact the county's effort to move forward in adopting text amendments to what is now relatively loose zoning regulations. Since mid-February, county planning officials have refused to accept any permits that could result in an industrial wind energy facility, saying only they preferred to wait to see how the PSC ruled.

Hager said Wednesday the county will wait to receive the PSC's written ruling and make sure nothing prevents them from taking further action.

"Then we would proceed with the review of their permit applications," Hager said.

The state commission's ruling comes one day before the county commissioners are expected to introduce a code home rule bill that would lead to tighter restrictions on both industrial and residential wind turbines. The commissioners have scheduled a public hearing on the text amendments to the zoning code - which would establish setbacks and address bonding and decommissioning issues - for 7 p.m. March 19 at the County Office Complex.

The PSC's scope of mission was limited by Senate Bill 566, which was passed during the 2007 legislative session. The law restricts the commission's analysis to three criteria: The facility must be land-based; the capacity of the facility cannot exceed 70 megawatts; and the electricity exported for sale from the facility must be sold only on the wholesale market pursuant to an interconnection, operation and maintenance agreement with the local electric company.

The commission also is required to ensure the safety and reliability of the electric system.

"If the commission ... is satisfied that the safety and reliability of the electric system is not adversely affected, the commission must grant the exemption approval, without further inquiry," according to Carmody's letter.


Source: http://www.times-news.com/l...

MAR 11 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/19420-psc-grants-wind-farm-exemption
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