Library filed under Impact on Wildlife from Virginia
Following State Corporation Commission's decision in March to remand the case to its hearing examiner for further review on environmental concerns, months of testimony have been submitted and reviewed. This week, the hearing examiner, Alexander J. Skirpan, submitted another report to commissioners, this time recommending "robust" monitoring of the potentially adverse impacts to wildlife, for the expected 20-year life of the project. ...Skirpan had previously concluded HNWD's project be approved by the SCC. But commissioners wanted to know what kind of details a monitoring and mitigation plan would include, rather than leaving those issues up to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and HNWD.
Backers of a proposed wind farm in Highland County would have to search daily for dead birds and bats and curtail turbine operations to limit loss of animal life under a proposed wildlife-protection plan issued Wednesday by a Virginia State Corporation Commission hearing officer. ...Citing "significant risk" to bats, and "a lesser risk" to birds, Skirpan recommended that backers of the 19-turbine project should pay for monitoring and altering their use, including speed, for the life of the wind farm.
The public version of this filing can be downloaded below.
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.
Bats serve important ecological functions that keep natural systems in balance, especially insect control. Their diminishment could impact humans in ways ranging from decreased crop yields and increased use of pesticides to greater incidence of insect-borne diseases. There is a risk that the public will accept wind energy as an easy solution to global warming without understanding the necessity of monitoring and mitigation requirements. It is important for the public to recognize that while the proposed development could produce up to 39 megawatts of power under ideal conditions, eastern turbines average less than a third of that amount over the course a year, and much less than a third during the summer when electricity demand is highest.
Highland New Wind is testifying that it cannot afford the wildlife protections recommended by wildlife agencies, conservation groups, and citizen respondents in the case. Despite the prospects of government incentives, which would cover the majority of development costs, it remains a marginal project, promising negligible benefits and huge environmental costs.
MONTEREY - Preparations have been under way for weeks, and this Tuesday, the State Corporation Commission will hold its second evidentiary hearing on what could be Virginia's first industrial wind energy utility. After months of testimony, the SCC did not reach a decision on whether to grant Highland New Wind Development a state permit to build its facility here atop Allegheny Mountain. Instead, the three commissioners remanded the case back to the SCC hearing examiner with instructions to gather more information, particularly on how to prevent or reduce the 39-megawatt plant's impacts on the environment, and monitor those after construction. HNWD is expected to call some of the same people it did at the first hearing to rebut testimony of expert witnesses who have spoken on behalf of The Nature Conservancy and Highland citizens opposed to the project.
The State Corporation Commission on Friday sent a proposal for Virginia's first utility-grade wind farm back to a hearing examiner for development of a plan to mitigate harm to rare birds and bats on Highland County ridges. In recommending approval last month for construction of 19 turbines, SCC hearing examiner Alexander Skirpan found that the Highland New Wind Development proposal posed a risk to birds and bats. Skirpan recommended a monitoring program, developed by the company and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, to reduce the environmental hazard.
The giant wind farm of 19 electricity-generating windmills in Highland County recently approved by the State Corporation Commission wasn't on the game department's radar. Studies elsewhere have shown that the 400-foot-high wind turbines kill bats and migrating songbirds and raptors. By the time the SCC asked the game department to review the proposal, Zadnik said, the developer had already gotten permission from the county to build.
Endangered bats and birds are at risk from Virginia's first proposed wind farm, but construction should proceed with the warning that its massive blades will be stopped at times if too many carcasses pile up. That was the decision Thursday from a State Corporation Commission hearing examiner who gave conditional approval to the controversial project in Highland County. Supporters and opponents have 21 days to comment on the hearing examiner's report. The case will then be forwarded to the commission for a final decision, which is expected early this summer.
ROANOKE -- A state hearing examiner has recommended construction of the first utility-grade wind farm in Virginia, provided it meets conditions to minimize harm to the environment. The recommendation announced Thursday goes to the State Corporation Commission, which will decide whether to approve construction of the 19-turbine development on Highland County ridges. SCC hearing examiner Alexander Skirpan found that the project by Highland New Wind Development poses a risk to bats and birds, but said a monitoring program by the company and a state agency following construction would help reduce the hazard.
This document includes studies in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.
No surprises here. The staff of the State Corporation Commission has concluded Highland New Wind Development’s proposal does not pose a problem for most of the requirements needed to acquire a state level permit. The one critical area SCC staff chose to leave in the hands of others is the potential environmental impacts created by the project related principally to avian wildlife.
Rick Webb's presentation on October 17 at the Energy Virginia conference provides a thought provoking analysis of the costs and benefits of industrial wind energy.
The first utility-grade wind farm proposed in Virginia is hailed by its supporters as clean energy that can help stem global warming and rising fuel prices. But mountaintop residents near the Highland County site worry about what the blades of 18 towers taller than the Statue of Liberty would do to their environment. That would include rare or endangered birds, bats, and a few other species, as well as a wild trout stream. Eleven state agencies have reviewed the Highland New Wind Development proposal and come up with a lengthy list of suggested studies, including an analysis of the cumulative impact of wind farms on the four-state Allegheny Mountain region. The State Corporation Commission, which has final say, will conduct a public hearing Oct. 30 in Richmond on the proposal by retired poultry processor Henry McBride of Harrisonburg. His attorney, John Flora, hopes the project can benefit from a federal tax credit that expires in 2007.
The September 20, 2006 VDGIF letter states: “We support the use of alternative energy sources, including wind energy. However, based on review of the information provided thus far by the Highland project applicant, in the absence of accountable mitigation conditions . . . we feel this project presents an unacceptable risk to wildlife.”
To reiterate, if the SCC chooses to license this project, we request adherence to the monitoring and mitigation recommendations described in this letter and attachments. In the absence of such conditions, we feel this project would pose an unacceptable risk to the Commonwealth’s wildlife resources.
Q. Please state your name and position. A. My name is Charles Simmons and I have been retained to provide assistance to Highland Citizens in regard to the application of Highland New Wind Development, LLC to construct a wind generation facility in Highland County. Editor's Note:This testimony provides an excellent description of how a grid works- particularly the role of 'economic dispatch' and 'spinning reserves'. It also addresses the methodology for estimating emissions savings and numerous other topics of interest.
Details and a registration form are available at the link below for the Wildlife and Wind Energy Conference to be held on Saturday, December 2, 2006 at Kutztown University in Kutztown, PA USA.
Virginia's environmental agency recommends that the developer of a proposed Highland County windmill project study the big turbines' effects on birds, bats and scenic views. The state Department of Environmental Quality passed its recommendations yesterday to the State Corporation Commission, which will approve or reject the project.