Wind energy and road development

Wind energy developers commonly downplay the impact of road construction through proposed project areas. For most ridgeline project proposals which Windaction.org has reviewed, applicants quietly state that roads will only require 11-meters (36-feet) width during construction, and quickly add that these areas will be allowed to re-vegetate back to 16-foot mountain trails. Yet, a reading of the actual road plans tells a very different story, as do actual results at completed developments.

First, be cognizant that 36-foot wide roads are as wide as a 3-lane interstate highway in the U.S. Given steep slopes and the potential for damaging runoff, comprehensive measures are needed to prevent erosion - all of which adds to the width of the cleared area. The road's subsurface and related compaction of road surface will likely prohibit re-growth beyond shallow grasses; it is questionable whether the impacted area will ever return to a forested state for decades.

The application for the Deerfield Wind project in the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont, a 42.5 megawatt (17 turbine) facility, will add approximately five linear miles of expansive road with a minimum 38-foot surface width. Windaction.org determined through discovery that the actual ridgeline roads would vary between forty and 160-feet.

Aerial photos of the Bear Creek, PA facility, an operating 12-turbine, 24 megawatt site clearly show a road structure that is nearly 100-feet wide. As do photos from Mars Hill that show clearings up to 100-feet wide. Road development at Pennsylvania's Allegheny Ridge wind site suffered 100-150 foot corridors cut through the forest. These are typical examples.

Windaction.org encourages reviewers to be mindful of the extent of road development impacts particularly in areas that are undisturbed. The true impacts should be scrutinized and developers held accountable prior to approving any project permits.

MAY 12 2008
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