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Garrett County wind project deal finalized

Constellation Energy has finalized its acquisition of a Garrett County wind project, closing a deal for the $140 million, 70-megawatt Criterion wind farm with California-based Clipper Windpower Inc.

The project, now under construction, is scheduled to go online by the end of 2010.

The deal was first announced in November and closed Wednesday. As part of the agreement, Constellation will also purchase 28 of Clipper's Liberty wind turbines, which will be installed along the top of Backbone Mountain near Eagle Rock. The turbines will be built at Clipper's manufacturing plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The agreement also calls for Clipper employees based in Garrett County to operate and maintain the wind power facility once it's up and running.

The Criterion project has a 20-year power purchase agreement with Old Dominion Electric Cooperative for both its electricity and renewable energy credits.

Constellation spokesman Larry McDonnell said the developer plans to voluntarily seek an incidental take permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The company has not yet given a timeframe for filing its application.

The permit effectively protects developers from violating the federal Endangered Species Act by creating a plan in advance to deal with the possibility that endangered wildlife could be harmed by a project. In this region, much of that attention has been focused on the Indiana bat.

"Even though the risk of a negative impact to an Indiana bat is very remote, Constellation Energy will voluntarily seek the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's approval for any incidental impacts," McDonnell said. "We will commit to developing Indiana bat habitat improvement projects that will result in far greater benefits to the species than any remote risk posed by the project."

The permit application requires developers to create a habitat conservation plan for mitigating the effects of an incidental killing of wildlife. USFWS can also require that applicants conduct biological surveys of the project area.

The length of time needed for USFWS to review a permit application can range from less than three months to one year, depending on the scope and complexity of the conservation plan, according to USFWS permit instructions. The timeframe can also be affected by other factors, such as public controversy.

Contact Megan Miller at mmiller@times-news.com.


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