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PSC gives final OK for wind farm

Just two days after Gov. Joe Manchin introduced a sweeping renewable energy proposal to lawmakers, the state Public Service Commission on Friday gave its final stamp of approval on a $300 million Greenbrier County wind farm. The much anticipated decision came nearly 4 1/2 years after Chicago-based Invenergy first applied for a siting certificate to construct 119 giant wind turbines on 23 miles of mountain ridges owned primarily by MeadWestvaco.

Just two days after Gov. Joe Manchin introduced a sweeping renewable energy proposal to lawmakers, the state Public Service Commission on Friday gave its final stamp of approval on a $300 million Greenbrier County wind farm.

The much anticipated decision came nearly 4 1/2 years after Chicago-based Invenergy first applied for a siting certificate to construct 119 giant wind turbines on 23 miles of mountain ridges owned primarily by MeadWestvaco. From the start, Invenergy officials touted the nation's need for clean, renewable energy and the hundreds of jobs that would be created from the construction of the Beech Ridge Energy wind farm located about 9 miles east of Rupert.

Manchin introduced the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act to lawmakers Wednesday evening. It would eventually require 25 percent of electricity sold in West Virginia to be generated from wind, solar and hydro-electric facilities.

And, as if on cue, the Manchin-appointed, three-man PSC green-lighted the controversial Greenbrier County project by publishing its 41-page decision late Friday afternoon.

During its deliberation, the PSC sorted through more than 800 pages of supporting documents supplied by Beech... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Just two days after Gov. Joe Manchin introduced a sweeping renewable energy proposal to lawmakers, the state Public Service Commission on Friday gave its final stamp of approval on a $300 million Greenbrier County wind farm.

The much anticipated decision came nearly 4 1/2 years after Chicago-based Invenergy first applied for a siting certificate to construct 119 giant wind turbines on 23 miles of mountain ridges owned primarily by MeadWestvaco. From the start, Invenergy officials touted the nation's need for clean, renewable energy and the hundreds of jobs that would be created from the construction of the Beech Ridge Energy wind farm located about 9 miles east of Rupert.

Manchin introduced the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act to lawmakers Wednesday evening. It would eventually require 25 percent of electricity sold in West Virginia to be generated from wind, solar and hydro-electric facilities.

And, as if on cue, the Manchin-appointed, three-man PSC green-lighted the controversial Greenbrier County project by publishing its 41-page decision late Friday afternoon.

During its deliberation, the PSC sorted through more than 800 pages of supporting documents supplied by Beech Ridge that bolstered the energy company's claim it had complied with 18 preconstruction conditions previously mandated by the PSC in 2006.

" ... the commission concludes that all pre-construction conditions have been met and authorizes construction begin on the proposed Beech Ridge Energy LLC wholesale electric generating facility in Greenbrier and Nicholas counties," Friday's order stated.

Construction of the 186-megawatt wind farm, which will require a 138-kilovolt transmission power line that connects to an Allegheny Energy substation near Nettie, is anticipated to take about seven months and will create about 200 jobs and between 15 and 29 full-time, permanent jobs.

"While we have not had time to review the entire order, Beech Ridge Energy is very pleased that the Public Service Commission has given us the green light to start construction," said Dave Groberg, director of business development for Invenergy. "Despite the current economic conditions, we are ready to put skilled West Virginians to work building this clean, renewable energy project this year."

Groberg previously said construction of the wind farm, barring any appeals, could begin as early as this spring.

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Beech Ridge's most vocal opponents, the grassroots organization called Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy, and Jeffrey and Alicia Eisenbeiss, fought the construction of the wind farm from its inception. A majority of the MCRE members, like the Eisenbeisses, owned property adjacent to proposed wind turbine sites.

MCRE officials could not be reached for comment late Friday.

MCRE had argued, among other things, the wind farm would decrease property values, spoil scenic views and could potentially kill endangered bats. The decommissioning, or tearing down, of the 400-foot-tall turbines after their useful life was over also became a core issue as the denials of MCRE appeals began to pile up.

In its decision, the PSC supported Beech Ridge's schedule of additional financing through bonds or escrow accounts to ensure money would be available should the turbines be dismantled at the end of or during their 20-year life span.

The PSC decision order said, "Beech Ridge shall tender a letter of credit in favor of the Greenbrier County Commission" in the amount of $2,500 for each turbine for the first five years of the project. That cost rises incrementally to $20,000 per turbine after 16 years.

The order also provides that Beech Ridge shall pay the county $400,000 in property taxes each year.

"It is further ordered that Beech Ridge shall submit to the (PSC) for its review and approval an ‘as built' decommissioning report when construction is completed and an updated decommissioning report every five years," the order said. "The commission reserves the right to adjust the amount of security required if an increase is warranted by the results of the ‘as built' review or any of the periodic updates."

Although the PSC also ordered Beech Ridge's case be removed from its docket, state laws allows for a 10-day window for an appeal. MCRE's officials have previously said they would exhaust all appeals and has not discounted a possible appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The PSC's Web site listed more than 723 separate filings since Beech Ridge's application for a siting certificate in November 2005.

MCRE's first bid to derail Beech Ridge's wind farm in the state Supreme Court failed in a 4-1 decision.


Source: http://www.register-herald....

FEB 14 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/19073-psc-gives-final-ok-for-wind-farm
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