Library from Virginia
The debate over a proposed wind farm in Tazewell County is far from over. It remains a hot button issue for local lawmakers who could see this issue play out in Richmond. While Dominion Power continues to push for creation of a wind farm on East River Mountain, three local state reps weigh in on the issue.
Joe Coburn, president of the Mercer County Commission, said the board has not had any real discussions about whether or not to create a ridgeline ordinance for Mercer County. Coburn added he wasn't aware of any entity interested in building a wind turbine farm in Mercer County. ...Why repeat the same mistake made by Tazewell County.
Adding wind turbines to the obstacle course migratory birds face already creates one more challenge they do not need, naturalists with the American Bird Conservatory stated recently. ..."Most of those ridges in the east are used by migratory birds," said Mike Parr, a spokesman for the conservancy. "There are two main areas. One is used by raptors, hawks and related birds that migrate during the daytime."
"We're trying to develop the technology. It is extremely expensive," said Tim Mallan, APCo manager of environmental affairs. Most of the rate hikes customers have seen in recent years resulted from the costs of federal mandates, APCo spokesman Todd Burns said. When new regulations make it more expensive to use carbon- rich coal, "that has an effect on rates," Burns said.
Mercer County currently does not have a ridgeline protection ordinance that would regulate the height of structures constructed atop the county's mountains. Two people planning to serve on the Mercer County Commission have said that the county should consider such a rule. "In my opinion, I don't like it myself," Mike Vinciguerra of Bluefield said when asked about the idea of wind turbines erected in the county.
In this season of giving, it is worthy to note the generosity of the Virginia legislature to the renewable-energy lobby. State Sen. Frank Wagner's website lists his visionary Virginia Energy Plan (VEP), passed in the 2006 Virginia General Assembly, during the heyday of climate change hysteria.
The board probably thought this story was finished when they passed the so-called ridgeline protection ordinance on a 3-2 vote last February. But Dominion Resources is still in town, and they say they are committed to developing the newly dubbed Bluestone River Wind Farm. They are classifying it as a long-term project without an actual construction timeline.
"Dominion has invested a significant amount of money in property in Tazewell County and based on the current pro business political climate in Richmond and Washington regarding wind energy I knew it was just a matter of time before the project was moved back to the front burner," Hymes said.
"I am certainly saddened by the fact that I see this in the newspaper and that they are coming back and operating as they are," Dr. Teresa Paine, a member of the Mountain Preservation Association, said of Dominion's announcement that it will be the sole developer of the proposed Bluestone River Wind Farm. "I think they are going to take advantage of this county for their own benefit."
Dominion Resources announced Wednesday that it is acquiring 100-percent ownership of a 2,600 acre tract of land on East River Mountain for the purpose of developing the proposed Bluestone River Wind Farm. A deed transferring the full ownership of the property to Dominion will be recorded today.
County officials are in the process of considering provisions to also allow utility scale wind energy systems with a conditional-use permit in the business and industrial zoning districts, Planning Director Jim McGowan said.
People seeking a state permit to develop small wind-energy projects in Virginia may receive a quicker answer from the Department of Environmental Quality, thanks to new authority given to the agency. But that doesn't mean major wind projects, whether offshore or on land, will sprout in Virginia any faster than they otherwise would.
Virginia officials asked the department to consider allowing turbines off its coast after receiving two unsolicited proposals last year. One of the interested parties is French company AREVA, which builds wind turbines in Germany and plans to build nuclear reactor parts in Virginia.
The ordinance allows residents to have up to two wind turbines per tax map land parcel at no more than 100 feet each and 35 feet for agricultural land. The reasoning behind two windmills is that one will more than sufficiently power a home and two will more than sufficiently power a farm operation. Any more than two windmills will generate a commercial amount of power.
Mineral County Commissioners once again heard from both sides of the wind farm issue as they gathered information this week in regard to the independent consultant required to conduct a study of what it would take to decommission - or dismantle - the turbines at Pinnacle Wind Farm once they have outlived their usefulness.
By a 4-2 vote Wednesday, the executive committee of the Sierra Club's Roanoke chapter voted to conditionally endorse a plan to build up to 18 turbines on Roanoke County's tallest mountain. Shortly afterward, Vice Chairwoman Holly Hartman resigned in protest, complaining that the group's leadership stifled dissenting opinions during four months of deliberation.
It is typically more expensive than conventional energy sources, and it is not always available when you need it, said Emil G. Avram, director of generation business development for Dominion Resources Services Inc.
Support from the coalition is contingent on the developers obtaining approval from regulatory agencies that include the Federal Aviation Administration and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Some residents of Poor Mountain have voiced concerns.
As of Jan. 1, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will accept applications for wind power projects. Currently, applicants go through the State Corporation Commission. And cases will be decided within 90 days, compared with the years it took for the state's first permitted wind farm.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has proposed regulations for a Permit by Rule for so-called "small wind energy projects." The proposed regulations fall well short of satisfying the DEQ's legislative mandate to "include conditions and standards necessary to protect the commonwealth's natural resources."