CUMBERLAND — Dan’s Mountain Wind Force LLC recently asked the Maryland Public Service Commission for a third construction delay for 19 wind turbines atop that prominent Allegany County ridgeline. Dan’s Mountain has also asked that a motion for the construction delay be put on the agenda for the earliest possible administrative meeting of the PSC.
“The project is expected to cost nearly $100 million and bring more than $1 million of new property tax revenue annually to the county,” said David Friend, managing partner of Laurel Renewable Partners, LLC. “In addition, it will support hundreds of construction jobs and a handful of new, well-paid operations and maintenance jobs once it is complete.”
On Nov. 20, after landowner authorizations and fine-tuning the project, Dan’s Mountain submitted an application for a special exception for the wind farm to the Allegany County Board of Zoning Appeals, according to PSC documents.
“Discussions with individual property owners were not a simple process. While some of the property owners were very easy to deal with, a few simply refused to engage in discussions and negotiations went on for several months,” writes Friend in an affidavit to the PSC.
Dan’s Mountain succeeded in executing 23 leases and 25 variance authorizations. The negotiations process consumed most of the 16-month extension period, which was granted by the PSC last year to extend the construction start deadline until Dec. 31, 2014, according to PSC documents.
In order to bring the project into compliance with the amended zoning ordinance, the number of wind turbines has been reduced from 29 to 19 and the location has been adjusted. At this time the capacity of the project has been reduced from 69.6 megawatts to 47.5MW, according to PSC documents.
“Dan's Mountain has worked diligently since then to reconfigure the project to conform with Allegany County's zoning regulations,” said Friend.
Dan’s Mountain is asking for a two-year extension until Dec. 31, 2016, to complete the county zoning process and to obtain building and grading permits from the county. One wind turbine is slated to go into operation on Dec. 31, 2018, according to PSC documents.
“We will, of course, work with both regulatory bodies (PSC and county board of zoning appeals) to navigate through the process,” said Friend. “Once we have the necessary approvals, we can prepare the project for construction. We are quite excited to be bringing this valuable economic development project to fruition.”
In March 2009, the PSC approved Dan’s Mountain’s request for approval of construction of the project and exemption from the requirement to obtain a certificate of public convenience and necessity. The project was delayed when the county’s strict new zoning regulations effectively eliminated 24 of the 25 turbines that were then planned, according to Friend.
The county’s setbacks are graduated depending upon the height of the turbine. For example, a turbine higher than 300 feet would be required to be 900 feet from a property line, according to a previous Times-News article. With approval of affected property owners, that distance can be reduced by up to 50 percent.
In addition, turbines must be 1,000 feet from any structure not owned by Dan’s Mountain and 2,000 feet from an occupied residence.
Dan’s Mountain has invested $3.1 million in the project, according to PSC documents. Chicago-based Exelon Corp. has agreed to help fund and purchase the project if it meets certain development milestones.
The turbines are proposed for Dan’s Mountain on about 1,700 acres described as being 4 miles southeast of Frostburg and 7 miles southwest of Cumberland.
Dan’s Mountain is owned by Laurel Renewable Partners of Greensburg, Pa.
U.S. Wind Force, LLC, the previous parent company of Dan’s Mountain, was the developer of the 55.2 MW Pinnacle Wind Farm at NewPage on Green Mountain. Last year, 32 lawsuits were filed alleging that the wind farm has caused mental and physical health problems as well as loss in the value of homes.