Maryland Wind Farm Threatens Bald Eagles

Maryland Wind Farm Threatens Bald Eagles
June 10, 2013

Cheryl K. Chumley

Cheryl K. Chumley (ckchumley@gmail.com) writes from Northern Virginia. (read full bio)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials report a proposed wind energy project in Maryland would pose a “significant risk to eagles” and the developer should trim back its construction plans. The U.S. Navy has also expressed concern about the project, noting the turbines might skew nearby radar readings.
 
At Least 30 Eagles at Risk
U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS) biologists report at least 30 bald eagles nest within 10 miles of the proposed wind project. The proposed 60 turbines are too threatening to the eagles, and dozens could die each year, FWS wildlife officials say.

Also, the proposed Great Bay wind project in Somerset County is near enough the Patuxent River air base that Navy officials say the bounce-back from turbines will make it difficult to get accurate radar readings.
 
In response, Texas-based Pioneer Green Energy, which proposes to build the Great Bay wind project, is offering to cut back the number of turbines from 60 to 50.
 
“We are in the late stage development process of the project. For the past three years we have been studying the various aspects of project design,” said Pioneer Green Energy Vice President for Development Adam Cohen.
 
Cohen said he has also worked to minimize threats from “climate change and sea level rise on the Chesapeake Bay” and to “military operations in the area.”
 
High Costs for Minimal Power
But not all Marylanders are on board with the project.
 
Thomas Firey, a senior fellow with the Maryland Public Policy Institute and the author of an electricity primer for Maryland, says the project is rife with problems. Most notably, according to Firey, the project presents a questionable use of public funds to accomplish political, rather than practical or feasible, purposes.
 
“There are four different subsidies hidden in this,” Firey said, “and besides the explicit subsidy the legislature creates, it triggers others.”
 
Firey said for all the subsidies and preferential treatment, the project will generate “only a relatively small amount of electricity. It’s not going to have any effect on global warming.… At best, [the project’s] meaningless. At worst, it puts Maryland residents on the hook for higher energy costs.”
 
Subsidies Make Situation Worse
Firey is not alone in expressing skepticism about the project. Jonathan Lesser, president of Continental Economics Inc., says wind power is not cost-efficient or economically feasible despite 35 years of subsidies. In addition, offshore wind developments are even more expensive than conventional wind projects, he says.
 
“Wind energy is not economic, … [and] subsidies do not work,” Lesser said. “Subsidies may decrease prices in the short run, but they drive out investment in the long run and create uncertainty, which leads to higher prices than would prevail without subsidies.”
 
“That’s free-lunch economics” and it doesn’t work, Lesser said. “And offshore wind is at least twice as costly as onshore wind. Regulators have had to resort to forcing utilities to purchase it.”
 
Cheryl Chumley (ckchumley@aol.com) is a news writer with The Washington Times.

Cheryl K. Chumley

Cheryl K. Chumley (ckchumley@gmail.com) writes from Northern Virginia. (read full bio)