General and West Virginia
What I would like to propose is that people of good will, who are concerned with our economy and the future of the environment, meet together to balance the needs of industry and the basic realities of environmental concerns. The state could set up a commission or panel of all interested groups in an effort to reach a compromise and then give expert advice to our Legislature.
Over the last five years, environmental degradation to our beautiful natural landscape is occurring without the public's knowledge as closed-door negotiations among local and state government and energy companies take place. And, of course there is very limited federal, state, and local regulatory oversight.
I walked on my normal walk in the woods one day and looked up to the top of the mountain. Just several months before it had been a picturesque view of wilderness beauty ... the kind that attracts tourists and creates much of the state's income. Now, it was lined with these tall mechanical monsters, towering over the trees of an old forest. I am not talking about the quaint and charming windmills of Holland here, we are talking about metal and flashing lights and a size that miniaturizes the grand forest beneath it.
Now these out-of-state wind energy corporations have discovered that our mountains hold an equally unique and valuable wind resource. These people describe how the Allegheny Front above Keyser is so perfectly suited for their industrial wind farm. ...There are power lines in the immediate vicinity to connect the turbines to the grid. The area is thinly settled so they don't have to worry about people living next to the turbines, and land is relatively cheap. Most local people were probably not aware of this (myself included) and now we are getting little offers of money to let this project go on.
And turbines are still something of a novelty for most of us, so the "not in my backyard" mentality hasn't yet set in when it comes to wind farms. In fact, as we reported in the Energy Journal, groups of ranchers in eastern Wyoming -- seeing an opportunity to make some money without significantly disrupting their ag operations -- have banded together to market their properties to wind energy developers.
That, of course, could change. As turbines begin to spring up in more sensitive, pristine spots, or closer to residential areas, the novelty could wear off quickly.
It isn’t over by a long shot, but residents of Pendleton County, W.Va., who banned together to argue against industrializing Jack Mountain have a lot to be proud of.
In the course of nearly three years, the very grass roots group Friends of Beautiful Pendleton County gathered reams of research, raised thousands of dollars, and successfully made the point that Liberty Gap LLC and its parent company, U.S. Wind Force LLC, should not be allowed to ignore the potentially damaging effects their 50-megawatt wind utility could have on the environment and quality of life for residents here who have little to gain from the project — and much to lose.
THE Sierra Club supports renewable energy nationally, and in West Virginia. Recently, the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club recommended that the application of Beech Ridge Energy LLC for a Certificate of Site Approval from the West Virginia Public Service Commission be approved and that the following conditions be included in the commission’s order granting the certificate for the company’s Greenbrier County wind farm:
Despite the continued emergence of the technology, business services and tourism industries, coal mining and manufacturing are still very important to West Virginia’s economy. Coal remains a viable and important energy source. In fact, this state contains an estimated 50 billion tons of coal reserves.
Well now you have gotten over the shock value of living next to an industrial wind turbine, maybe you are ready for more technology in your life? How about microwave towers for cell phone communications or emergency response teams or high definition TV and radio? Why not? Your once rural area is now an industrial park anyway, so what does a few more poles and towers matter now?
And remember your driveway and small country road? Well it's now been widened and graded and 50' wide access roads carved away from it to provide clearways for giant tractor trailers. And the deer you used to enjoy so close to your home? Gone ...So what was your life once like back in those tranquil old days before your property area became an industrial wind energy site?
But demand for electricity continues to increase by about 2 percent a year and could double in just 35 years. Simply to keep up with that level of demand would require construction of 72,391 2-megawatt turbines on 434,347 miles of ridges and hills annually. An even larger stumbling block is that wind energy cannot by itself replace any coal-fired power plant. Because wind energy is variable, it needs help from conventional power sources to keep energy levels even. Wind advocates claim cleaner-burning natural gas-fired units can handle the load, but those units emit carbon as well. There is a limited availability of natural gas and a lack of pipeline infrastructure in many areas where wind turbine development is projected.
The basic problem with wind is that it cannot supply power on demand. ...This is no doubt troubling to those who have been led to believe that wind power is a worthwhile antidote to atmospheric carbon buildup, but the facts indicate otherwise. Each remedy proposed by wind advocates to compensate for the failings of wind technology requires more and more taxpayer-funded support, masking the true costs of letting wind energy loose on the grid.
“I want to hear from the public,” Anderson said. “That is what I want to hear. I represent the Bluefield area, and I need their input. I want the people in my district to know what’s going on ... Hardly no one spoke at the first public hearing, and we didn’t act on it. “
Anderson’s plea for public input is vital — and much appreciated. All too often people do not speak up about public issues until it is too late.
The issue of building large windmills along the crest of East River Mountain has the potential to blow into a furious debate.
Wind developers also covet those ridge tops, but for different reasons. It's an opportunity for them to make money - risk-free and at taxpayer expense. While there's nothing unusual about businesses scrambling to take advantage of government handouts, the justifications of the wind developers for getting this special kind of treatment need a dose of informed public scrutiny. Indeed, industrial wind development in general could use a major reality check.
The state of West Virginia needs to step in and demand answers from Nedpower. First, their destruction of five miles of state road needs to be paid for. Next clarification of the Spanish turbine purchase, how many turbines are they now planning to install? And then last but not least, the illegally sited turbines that are in breach of federal siting requirements - when will they be removed or relocated?
Shell Oil executives should rightly be very nervous, and the state executives should be monitoring the situation to ensure the State is not left with a massive clean-up operation if Shell Oil pulls out aburptly.
If there ever was a time to proceed cautiously, it is now with respect to “wind farms” in West Virginia. The potential benefits to the State are so insignificant, while the potential environmental and economic consequences so enormous, that a moratorium on all wind power facilities (not just those near airports) is in order.
Rep. Alan Mollohan is proving refreshingly thoughtful and farsighted on one of the emerging issues facing West Virginia - the pros and cons of wind power.
He makes a persuasive case that the state should regulate its newest energy industry now.
On Tuesday, the 1st District congressman told a congressional subcommittee he is very concerned about the impact wind farms could have on the wildlife and natural beauty of the state......Mollohan is right. It's time to slow this heavily subsidized stampede.
My basic position on wind energy in our state is that before decisions are made on building industrial turbines across our mountain ridges, we should have a good idea of what the costs as well as the benefits of those projects will be to West Virginians, both now and in the future. There can be honest disagreements about what those costs and benefits will be, and how they should be weighed. But I hope no one would disagree with the proposition that the decisions to be made on wind turbines - which raise the prospect of permanently altering the face of our State - should be made in a fully informed, considered way.
To that end, I believe the immediate need is for there to be a serious, public discussion of wind energy in this State. Members of the news media can play an important part in this discussion, but only to the extent that they report the facts, study the issues carefully, and issue thoughtful commentaries -- rather than merely publishing industry talking points.
Being neither pro nor con on wind turbines, I would like some facts on them. How much power do they produce in megawatt hours?
Will it take 20,000 of these structures to replace 20,000 megawatts of power in our coal fired grid?
Is enough voltage produced to push this power over 100 miles? ...
I have 23 years experience in power generation and have seen political fads come and go.
We would all like to lower our energy costs. ...Wind turbines are a good idea, but are they practical or just another tax break for power companies?
Nedpower's continuing blundering puts them in strong contention as the World's Worst Wind Project. If it was not so sad it would be funny. Their grasp of a what a carbon neutral foot print is would make Al Gore cringe.
Here's the easy "How to run a wind farm project like Nedpower" 20 point check list:
Now, to top it off, a Chicago (the windy city) corporation would like to put up over 100 giant wind turbines (as tall as 40-story buildings) blinking and twirling for all to see, across the highest, grandest mountain ridges of our state.