Library filed under Impact on Landscape from Virginia
West Virginia might have something to say about Mac McBride's plans for a wind energy utility in Highland County after all. Thursday, Highland resident Dan Foster was invited to speak to Pocahontas County Commissioners, addressing his concerns for Highland New Wind Development's project impacts on Camp Allegheny - the Civil War battlefield site is in Pocahontas ...This week, Foster said Pocahontas officials shared his concerns for the landmark battlefield, and intended to write to McBride, HNWD owner, and agency officials in both states.
As a microcosm of the wind plant controversy, the wetlands issue seems to be typical of the level of scrutiny applied to the plans for turbines on Allegheny Mountain. Highland New Wind's plans for a utility in the Laurel Fork watershed has garnered strong opposition from residents and landowners since 2002, and the current debate about wetlands on the project site is a tug of war ...Recently, three Highlanders submitted a letter to a number of state agencies and county officials, asserting there appears to be a wetlands area under which HNWD will bury a transmission line, and that HNWD has not applied for a federal permit to do that.
A month ago HNWD development made national news when its public relations firm announced that Virginia's first utility scale wind project was ready to start construction. As indicated here, that was a blatant misrepresentation. HNWD does not have a building permit, does not have an Erosion and Sediment Control permit, does not have approval from the FAA, has not satisfied the permit conditions imposed by the State Corporation Commission (SCC), and has not obtained an Endangered Species Act permit.
Six weeks ago, Ann Robinson of Falls Mills, Va., had never heard of wind turbines, but on Sunday afternoon, she was expressing her concerns over a BP Dominion's proposed wind turbine farm on East River Mountain in Tazewell County, Va. "At first I thought, oh well, wind energy, this is green ... this is a good thing, but then I started researching wind turbines and learned differently," Robinson said to a crowd.
Residents filled the auditorium of Washington High School on Monday evening in hopes that their voices would be heard and a change would be made to the proposed route for a high-voltage power line slated for construction in the area. Nearly 150 people turned out for a public hearing about P.A.T.H., which stands for Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, and is a joint venture of Allegheny Energy and American Electric Power that was announced last year.
The fate of a controversial wind turbine project for Tazewell County is still up in the air. A newly created steering committee will now mull over a proposed ridgeline protection ordinance. The ordinance - if adopted by the Board of Supervisors - would regulate the development of tall structures along certain protected mountain ridges, including East River Mountain and Burke's Garden.
Despite Highland New Wind Development's request for streamlined treatment from state agencies, the Department of Historic Resources has determined the company must still submit a detailed site plan and visual impact study, particularly because its proposed 39-megawatt wind energy utility would be near a protected Civil War battlefield.
David Anderson, the Eastern District member of the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors, has been busy in recent days answering phone calls and e-mails from supporters and opponents of a proposed large-scale windmill project. ..."Don't get me wrong, I've heard a lot of positive, and I've heard a lot of negative," Anderson said Tuesday. "There are still people who are very pro-windmill. But the majority of the feedback I've received have been real concerned about the natural beauty of East River Mountain."
Is it too expensive to survey historic resources before Virginia's first wind energy plant is constructed? Highland New Wind Development says it would have to fork over between $50,000-$75,000, or more, to do what state officials have been steadily requesting for two years. ...DHR archeologist Roger Kirchen, however, told The Recorder his agency needs the results of these surveys before a review of the project is completed. "The final SCC order directs the applicant to work toward providing us with information," Kirchen said Monday. "The SCC order has the authority. We've exchanged some documents (with HNWD) ... but none of these issues have been resolved. At this point, we're just trying to identify the potential effects."
Death, destruction and insomnia are marketed as "renewable electricity" to urban consumers. The federal production tax credit drives it all, with additional subsidies on national forest, where no property taxes are levied. ...We'd have to replace nearly every tree with a turbine to offset even a small amount of coal's impact, devastating the forest in the process. Without a national policy on energy conservation and efficiency, we're whistling in the wind anyway.
No matter how much good PR wind energy gets in the U.S., or in Virginia, from politicos eager to jump on the "green power" band wagon, officials and residents in both counties must retain their focus here at home. They should tune out the frenzied and exaggerated scare tactics used so often to shove wind power down our throats. They must keep their eyes squarely in their own back yards when it comes to siting issues. Everything from wildlife and environmental impacts to the majority voices of those who live here must take precedence over the misleading public relations machine that takes the spotlight off the millions of dollars we already spend to subsidize a source of power that cannot meet our needs if developed ...
Commercial wind projects in the Appalachian region are typically built in strings of about seven turbines per mile along ridge crests. This map shows the potential for 88 miles of turbine strings on Bath County ridges. Possible development sites occur within Wind Power Class 3 through 7, and were derived from resource maps obtained from the National Renewable Energy Lab. Of the possible turbine sites in Bath County Virginia, 52 percent are located on national forest land and 12 percent are located on The Nature Conservancy's Warm Springs Mountain Preserve; 25 percent of the total possible turbine sites are presumably off limits, including all of those in TNC's preserve and about one-third of those on national forest. The identification of national forest lands as "suitable" or "unsuitable" is based on the draft management plan for the George Washington National Forest.
This brochure provides a quick, but informative, summary of the key issues pertaining to wind energy development in Virginia and the Appalachian region. The document can serve as a start point for others preparing similar information materials for their community. Click on the link(s) at the bottom of this page to view the final layout including photos.
The Albemarle County Planning Commission has thrown out the idea of allowing commercial wind turbines in the county-but it's mulling the idea of smaller wind turbines for individual homeowners. ...the devices are behemoths that are up to 550' tall, dwarfing everything around them. "As I understand it, where they might be adequate, there would be unacceptable environmental consequences to the surrounding area," says Commissioner Jon Cannon. Fellow Commissioner Marcia Joseph echoed Cannon's feelings on commercial wind turbine creation. "My main concern is lining the ridgeline with commercial-sized wind turbines," says UVA Environmental Sciences Professor Rick Webb. "I'm concerned about industrial scale development intruding on what remains of wilderness areas we have left."
Freedom Works is planning the project to span the ridge line running along the border between Va. and West Va. The line runs from approximately five miles north of Woodstock to about five miles South of Mount Jackson, along the Western horizon. This would cover eighteen miles of ridgeline, in two states (Virginia and West Virginia), and three counties (Hardy in West Virginia, and Shenandoah and Rockingham in Virginia.) The timeline for the project runs from as short as a two-year, permit-gathering phase (followed by one to two years of construction) to a completion date as far off as the year 2040. When asked about a reported 2010 completion date for the project, Jim Smalls, district ranger for the Lee Ranger District within which the project is being planned, simply said, "I find that optimistic."
The current political wind is in favor of the developers and industrial wind energy interests, thereby significantly influencing the pressure on our natural environment. If the trend continues, how much of our national, state and private forests will remain when our fast expanding population will likely be desperate for a little breathing room in the future - 25, 50 and 100 years from today? I am well aware of the issues of global warming and the nation's energy requirements and am totally convinced that industrial wind energy projects on the ridge tops of the mountains in the Eastern United States is not the solution and unworthy of the billions of dollars that we are bestowing upon this industry. A major reason for the increasing opposition to the development of large industrial wind projects in the mountains is loss of visual amenity, the effects of highly visible vertical man-made structures with rotating blades located in predominantly horizontal, static natural hillscapes. The loss of beautiful scenery, favorite views and inspiring landscapes are objections dismissed by large corporate developers as emotional and subjective. ...In conclusion, the negative issues, problems and drawbacks of siting industrial wind turbines on the pristine mountains is not the answer our nation's need for energy sources. Why are we allowing them to infiltrate our ecologically fragile landscapes and cause huge negative impacts?
Shenandoah Mountain is fit with high-quality breezes and a location near population centers, a necessary combination for wind farms such as the one being sought by a West Virginia firm, a wind expert said. ...Politicians will have their say, too, if the local project moves forward. Del. Todd Gil-bert, R-Woodstock, said his office would be making inquiries soon, but that more knowledge of wind energy is needed before he can form an opinion on it. "I'm one of the biggest proponents for trying to get off the dependence on oil," he said, "but the fact of the matter is, the most cost-efficient energy sources we have are traditional ones, not alternative ones."
In addition to killing birds, wind turbines at other sites have been found to kill bats, said Rick Lambert, a member of the Virginia Highlands Grotto of the National Speleological Society and local bat enthusiast. At the Mountaineer Wind Energy Center in West Virginia, 47.5 bats were killed per turbine annually, he said. In addition to common bats, there are 41 Indiana Bat caves within 50 miles and 23 Virginia Big-eared Bat caves within 30 miles of the proposed wind farm, Lambert said. Both species of bats are endangered and the turbines will be well within their migratory distance, he said.
Those looking for a sense of closure on the topic of wind energy in Highland County aren't going to get it anytime soon. The State Corporation Commission's approval two weeks ago for the Virginia's first wind energy utility was another big step toward getting 400-foot turbines erected on our ridge lines, but most involved agree Highlanders are unlikely to see blades spinning this year. ...Overall, Virginians should feel pretty good about how thoroughly the SCC examined HNWD's application for the facility. Protecting the environment - not McBride's bottom line - was clearly important to commissioners and other state agencies weighing in on the decision. The conditions attached to the permit indicate HNWD will be held accountable for environmental damage across the board if the utility adversely impacts in the pristine Appalachian area where it would be built. State agencies, including the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, will have virtually unfettered access on a daily basis to study the facility and watch for problems - something other states and utilities have rarely provided.
The ferocity of local opinions against the project has raised questions about Virginia's future as a wind-energy producer, with surrounding counties unsure about opening their mountaintops to investors, too. The debate also comes as entrepreneurs in other states are rushing to erect turbines, take advantage of federal tax credits and create electricity without the emissions linked to global warming.