To help shed light on key issues, this paper focuses on recent and pending “wind farm” developments in West Virginia.
Library from West Virginia
Site of a portion of the Mountaineer Wind Energy Center in 1997, five years before the start of construction. This is a digital color infrared photograph, which explains the odd coloration. The red areas are the conifer tree species (spruce, pine and hemlock) which are highly reflective of infrared light. The photo was taken during the winter so the brown areas depict the bare deciduous forest, mostly northern hardwoods — maple, birch, cherry, and northern red oak. The green bar at lower left is a 100m [328 foot] scale. This study area was chosen to compare before and after conditions, illustrating the impact of this type of development. Jon Boone's Comments regarding Mountaineer (WV) Before (this image), Mountaineer (WV) After (1), and Mountaineer (WV) After (2). The first two images (i.e. Before and After 1) show the extensive forest-interior habitat that existed before the windplant was constructed and the resulting impacts following construction in late 2002. The third image (i.e. After 2) shows the southern half of the windplant (about 22 turbines) and identifies the boundaries of the study area for the pre- vs. post-construction analysis. It also shows that the study area I chose was fairly representative of the existing habitat conditions at this windplant and gives a better view of the magnitude of the development’s impacts on forest and especially forest-interior habitat. [Forest interior is the type of habitat that exists at more than 100 meters from a clearing. Forest interior is required for the survival of certain species and is the type of habitat most easily destroyed by any form of development.] On the portion of the site that I analyzed, the construction of this wind factory cleared over 42 acres of forest for the string of eight turbines (out of 44) that I analyzed. The extensive fragmentation of habitat resulting from the 50-ft-wide service road and the 5+ acres (average) that were bulldozed to erect each turbine caused the loss of over 150 acres of forest-interior conditions within this once-contiguous forest tract. My estimate is that a complete analysis of the entire project area, including 5.5 miles of ridgetop and 44 turbines, would find a total of nearly 200 acres of forest were cleared and over 750 acres of forest-interior habitat was lost following construction of the Mountaineer wind energy facility.
US Wind Force’s depiction of their Liberty Gap project planned for Jack Mountain in Pendleton County, WV. This view is looking south toward Highland County. Turbines will extend all the way to the state line and, if Highland gives approval, they could be extended further south.