Library filed under Zoning/Planning from Virginia
According to a survey in Patrick County, 73.3 percent of responders support a permanent ban on tall structures in the county, a ban that may be put into place next month. About 14,500 real estate tax bills were sent out in September along with the survey questions, according to officials at the Patrick County administrator’s office. The Patrick County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in September to approve a new ordinance that “prohibits the erection of structures over 100 feet tall,” thus keeping wind turbines from being built in the county for at least six months.
The 15-story towers and crackling cables that are planned to cut across the Northern Virginia countryside are just red lines on a map, a paper illustration of what could come. But for Cameron Eaton, who learned shortly after Thanksgiving that one of the proposed routes for a new high-voltage power line slices across her Fauquier County property, they have already brought the specter of financial ruin. She bought her 100-acre Delaplane farm last year, when it was an overgrown slice of land anchored by a rundown old farmhouse just off Interstate 66. She plowed all her savings into it. To pay down her $1 million mortgage and build up her horse business, she planned to sell a five-acre chunk within a couple of years. Then came what her neighbors have come to regard as “the black cloud.”
While Highland County still remains the only Virginia locality actively targeted for the state’s first industrial wind power project, Bath County should get ahead of the curve on the issue, Bath officials warn. Bath County planner Miranda Redinger attended the regional meeting on a possible scoring system for renewable energy sources recently, and was surprised to learn there is a strong potential for wind energy development in Bath County. “Apparently Bath is priority one for wind development. I always thought winds measuring four and five were good for turbines, but it’s three to five — Bath has a lot of three,” she told county planners Monday.
The longer Bath County ignores this issue, the more vulnerable it becomes as well. Never mind all the smart growth and good planning — this one kind of industry could cast a dark shadow over all the other promising developments Bath is starting to attract. Fortunately, it appears Bath’s planners are prepared to take the right road to encourage big wind companies to find another place to land.
Dominion Virginia Power has proposed routes for a high-voltage power line that would cut through parts of Prince William, Loudoun and Fauquier counties, moving forward a project that officials say is necessary to avoid blackouts but critics contend will unnecessarily scar some of the most fiercely preserved land in the state.
Bats and birds continued to be the main topic of discussion last week as testimony about Highland New Wind Development’s proposed turbine utility concluded at the State Corporation Commission. Expert witnesses for the company maintained their position that there simply was not enough evidence to show the 18-20 turbines atop Allegheny Mountain would threaten avian species. Most of the back-and-forth between experts and attorneys centered on the environmental sensitivity of the site in Highland County, and little new information surfaced about what could be Virginia’s first industrial wind energy facility.
The Patrick County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Monday to enact an ordinance prohibiting the construction of structures exceeding 100 feet in height. The tall structures ordinance would ban the 400-foot wind turbines that a wind energy company has expressed interest in building on the county’s highest ridges. The ordinance has a sunset clause of six months, meaning that it will expire automatically six months after the enactment date of Nov. 6.
If you closed your eyes, you could almost hear the groan of the bureaucratic wheel slowly grinding. Monday marked the opening of the State Corporation Commission’s hearing on Highland New Wind Development’s proposal to construct the state’s first industrial wind facility on Allegheny Mountain in Highland County. If the first day’s proceedings are any indication, the process will take much longer than the three days scheduled.
The State Corporation Commission is getting an earful from folks across the state about a proposed wind farm in Highland County. Mac McBride's company, Highland New Wind Developments, wants to build more than a dozen windmills on two ridges in the county.
Seven years after first squaring off, supporters and critics of Virginia’s first proposed industrial wind farm resumed their public debate Monday in Richmond. The State Corporation Commission is conducting its final public hearing on the Highland County proposal, which is expected to set a precedent for all future wind energy projects in Virginia. The Highland County proposal is part of the wind energy industry’s expansion from its traditional home in the West to the ridgelines of the Appalachian Mountains, where hundreds of turbines have been constructed in recent years and hundreds more are proposed. The SCC hearing is expected to last at least a week. No time frame has been set for a decision.
Next week, experts will convene in a State Corporation Commission courtroom to offer their opinions on the merits of what could be Virginia’s first industrial wind utility. After years of moving through the local and state processes, the hearings will be one of the last hurdles for Highland New Wind Development’s efforts to get final approval for its project. HNWD already obtained a conditional use permit from Highland County to construct the facility atop Allegheny Mountain, in the county’s westernmost region. That permit was granted last year, with conditions.
Those opposed to the industrial development of our mountain ridges — and that constitutes a large majority — worry that government officials are persuaded by the energy lobby’s claims that “green” power on the grid, even if it’s a drop in the bucket, is better than nothing, no matter how adversely it might impact these culturally and environmentally delicate regions and no matter how heavily it must be subsidized by taxpayers to be financially feasible for investors. The generic arguments about sacrificing for the good of the country made by corporate managers and lawyers working for the wind industry can easily ring true to those so far removed from the reality of our unmatched natural setting. But we believe the state agencies involved in this debate — the State Corporation Commission, Virginia’s departments of environmental quality, historic resources and conservation and recreation, and especially the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — have come to understand those arguments have no legs in the much bigger picture of alternative energy possibilities.
As energy policy moves higher on the legislative agenda in Virginia, those opposed to commercial wind utilities in the Allegheny Highlands have serious concerns about how the industry and its supporters are lobbying for more “green” electric power.
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.
STUARTS DRAFT — When the sun goes down, the homemade passive solar heater for Richard Murphy's tractor barn shuts off. He's confident that his 1.8 kilowatt wind turbine will pick up the slack. Thursday afternoon, the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals granted Murphy a special use permit for a 35-foot tower at his aptly named Windy Hill Lane residence. But Murphy doesn't plan to leave the grid. In fact, his three-blade, 220-volt alternator will feed directly into his breaker box, easing the draw of his all-electric house on his utility meter. When he generates more than he uses, state law insists that the utility buys his surplus. "I estimate I can cut my electrical bill between 20 and 30 percent," he said. "Payback will happen in about 12 years."
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.”
The Patrick County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Monday to enact a temporary ordinance prohibiting the construction of structures more than 100 feet tall, with a six-month "sunset clause." According to the motion made by Peters Creek District Supervisor David Young, the board will make a decision at the end of the six months on whether to adopt a permanent ordinance banning "tall structures," based on the results of a public opinion survey to be mailed to owners of real estate in Patrick County. The survey, which will be mailed by the county treasurer's office along with real estate tax tickets, asks recipients if they support the proposed policy: "No structure shall be built in Patrick County more than 100 feet high, except a structure built solely for telecommunications purposes and except a structure built as a steeple or tower for a place of religious worship."
HIGHTOWN - 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.
Among the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality's 14 recommended requirements for the Highland New Wind Development's proposed turbine project: