Library filed under Impact on People from Virginia
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 ...
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?
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.
HNWD attorneys Brian Brake and John Flora declined to make any comment on the SCC's decision or answer questions about how the company will proceed from here. At this point, Bailey said he doubted the SCC would reconsider its permit order. "Legal arguments at the SCC are always edgy, and here, it's so clear how seriously they have taken the environment. The chances (of an appeal) prevailing are remote ... This has set a wonderful precedent for Virginia, and I can't see wind turbines exploding in this state now." And, before construction can begin, HNWD is required to submit a final site plan. The company cannot do anything, including storing equipment on site, until that site plan is approved. Before HNWD can get a county building permit, it must also file a performance bond. For the first partial year and five subsequent years, that bond must be for $2,500 per turbine tower; for the remaining years, the amount is $6,000 each.
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 first wind-powered electric generation project in Virginia will be permitted on the remote ridges of Highland County, the State Corporation Commission said Thursday. The commission granted conditional approval to Highland New Wind Development's $60 million proposal to place 19 turbines more than 400 feet tall on a 4,400-foot ridge near the West Virginia border. The company must spend up to $150,000 a year to monitor and mitigate harm to birds and bats that could be caused by the whirling turbine blades, the SCC said. Environmentalists have contended many endangered species would be threatened by the project, and an SCC hearing examiner concluded that the turbines were a "significant risk" to bats and "a lesser risk" to birds.
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.
We hope other Virginia localities watching these proceedings will profit from learning that currently unreliable wind power is green only for those who are allowed to siphon off government money at taxpayers’ expense and that as this high-cost energy is fed back into the grid, it will result in higher, not lower, electric bills for users. And we hope the cumulative anguish of Highlanders expressed during the hearings will give other decision-makers pause when they consider the real costs of wrongly-sited wind power.