Testimony split on wind power

March 03, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Environmentalists were split Tuesday on legislation to encourage the use of wind power and other renewable energy sources in Maryland.

While some praised the value of harnessing wind power to reduce dependence on foreign oil, others said the 400-foot wind turbines would be a blight on the landscape and would kill birds and bats that would unwittingly crash into them.

Manufacturing industry representatives also opposed the bill at a hearing Tuesday, arguing they essentially would be subsidizing wind power companies at the cost of jobs at their plants.


House Economic Matters Committee Chairman Dereck E. Davis, D-Prince George's, promised to work with those who have concerns in order to get legislation passed this session.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, is the lead sponsor of the bill, which would require the state's energy suppliers to get 7.5 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2014.

Kevin Rackstraw of Clipper Wind Power in Bethesda, Md., said the legislation would allow his company to get the long-term financing needed to develop a 100-megawatt wind farm on a Garrett County mountain ridge. Clipper got a permit last year to construct the turbines.

Wind farms are more cost-effective to build than new coal-fired electric plants, he said.

Some environmentalists testified that increasing the use of renewable energy sources would help stop global warming.

Hancock-area farmer Mike Tabor testified that the state's agriculture industry could benefit from the bill because it might encourage him to grow new crops such as switchgrass, which may be used in coal-fired plants.

Other farmers might benefit from renting their land to wind farms at a cost of about $2,000 per turbine, he said.

As an environmentalist, Jon Boone of Oakland, Md., said he expected to favor Clipper Wind Power's plan. That was before he saw them.

"The windmills are actually windscrapers," said Boone, who was representing Friends of Backbone Mountain. "There will be an uproar in every county where wind power is targeted."

The Maryland Energy Administration said the legislation could lead to rate increases for residential customers, who would face the removal of rate caps at the same time the renewable energy mandates would begin in 2006.

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