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Western Md. wind project takes shape

After years of planning and bitter debate, Maryland's first commercial wind energy project is taking shape in rugged Garrett County - just as a new legal challenge arises that could alter or even halt the $140 million venture in its tracks.

Constellation erecting turbines in face of local opposition

OAKLAND - - The first slender white tower went up about a month ago. Others soon followed, poking above the trees on Backbone Mountain. Now blades are being added, forming giant pinwheels that loom over the landscape, visible from miles away.

After years of planning and bitter debate, Maryland's first commercial wind energy project is taking shape in rugged Garrett County - just as a new legal challenge arises that could alter or even halt the $140 million venture in its tracks.

Construction crews, trucks and heavy equipment are crawling all over an eight-mile stretch of fields and woods, clearing trees, moving earth, pouring concrete and assembling 28 mammoth turbines - each standing 415 feet tall when one of its three blades is pointing skyward.

Even as the turbines rise, opinions on the project still divide the rural communities within sight of them.

"At last something is happening," says Marvin White Sr. The 62-year-old Oakland man says he's been waiting nine years to see turbines go up, since leasing part of his farmland for four of the machines. The rent... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Constellation erecting turbines in face of local opposition

OAKLAND - - The first slender white tower went up about a month ago. Others soon followed, poking above the trees on Backbone Mountain. Now blades are being added, forming giant pinwheels that loom over the landscape, visible from miles away.

After years of planning and bitter debate, Maryland's first commercial wind energy project is taking shape in rugged Garrett County - just as a new legal challenge arises that could alter or even halt the $140 million venture in its tracks.

Construction crews, trucks and heavy equipment are crawling all over an eight-mile stretch of fields and woods, clearing trees, moving earth, pouring concrete and assembling 28 mammoth turbines - each standing 415 feet tall when one of its three blades is pointing skyward.

Even as the turbines rise, opinions on the project still divide the rural communities within sight of them.

"At last something is happening," says Marvin White Sr. The 62-year-old Oakland man says he's been waiting nine years to see turbines go up, since leasing part of his farmland for four of the machines. The rent supplements his disability income, he says, and pays the taxes on his property. "It helped me keep this place."

Matia Vanderbilt, though, believes this wind project and another one just starting construction on another part of the same ridge will damage wildlife, water resources and scenic views - while posing a threat to nearby residents' health and safety.

"To watch the earth and mountains be disturbed the way they are is very disturbing," said the 42-year-old recreational therapist from Mountain Lake Park.

Officials with Constellation Energy, which acquired the project earlier this year from a California-based wind developer, say they're taking pains to safeguard the environment. Dean Munsey, the Baltimore-based company's project director, notes that one turbine was moved to avoid disturbing endangered rock voles, mouse-like rodents that live among the rocks and woods.

"From trees to rock voles to rattlesnakes, everything's here for a reason," says Craig Achenbach, the project's safety coordinator. "We're here for green energy."

But some question how green the energy is, and are threatening to sue to block the project.


Source: http://articles.baltimoresu...

AUG 2 2010
https://www.windaction.org/posts/27550-western-md-wind-project-takes-shape
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