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Mineral Commission meets with US Wind Force officials

The Mineral County Commissioners got their first chance to sit down one-on-one with representatives of US Wind Force to discuss issues of concern and clarify rumors. The meeting included wind power companies trying to request exemption from the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) as a public utility.

KEYSER - The Mineral County Commissioners got their first chance to sit down one-on-one with representatives of US Wind Force to discuss issues of concern and clarify rumors.

The meeting included wind power companies trying to request exemption from the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) as a public utility.

"It is true that companies like Pinnacle Windforce are not public utilities in terms of what the Public Service Commission regulations define," said Chris Callas of Jackson Kelly Attorneys at Law. "A wholesale generator who sells in the interstate commerce market like Pinnacle doesn't have their rates set by the PSC."

He said while projects would still fall under the same siting permit process, they negotiate their power on an open market. This was the reason some companies are seeking to be removed from that categorization.

The commissioners also questioned how much tax revenue the county would see from the Pinnacle project.

Dave Friend, vice president of sales and marketing for US Wind Force, said the value of the turbines and, in correlation, the taxes paid, saw an increase through the first part of the lifespan of the project and a decrease after it peaked somewhere... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

KEYSER - The Mineral County Commissioners got their first chance to sit down one-on-one with representatives of US Wind Force to discuss issues of concern and clarify rumors.

The meeting included wind power companies trying to request exemption from the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) as a public utility.

"It is true that companies like Pinnacle Windforce are not public utilities in terms of what the Public Service Commission regulations define," said Chris Callas of Jackson Kelly Attorneys at Law. "A wholesale generator who sells in the interstate commerce market like Pinnacle doesn't have their rates set by the PSC."

He said while projects would still fall under the same siting permit process, they negotiate their power on an open market. This was the reason some companies are seeking to be removed from that categorization.

The commissioners also questioned how much tax revenue the county would see from the Pinnacle project.

Dave Friend, vice president of sales and marketing for US Wind Force, said the value of the turbines and, in correlation, the taxes paid, saw an increase through the first part of the lifespan of the project and a decrease after it peaked somewhere around the halfway point. He said the company expects to pay an average of around $430,000 per year in taxes.

Commission President Wayne Spiggle asked Friend if the company would be willing to set a "floor" with the county based upon these numbers. He said Greenbrier County was able to do this.

Friend said he felt the company would be willing to sign something guaranteeing a certain amount based upon the tax figures anticipated each year, but probably nothing as high as the average yearly amount, particularly during the early and later years of the project.

Regardless of the amount of revenue that might come into the county, Spiggle said he wanted to make sure the companies would have the money in place for the decommissioning of the turbines.

Friend assured that it is required by the PSC that they have an escrow account that would be reviewed every five years to ensure there was the proper funding to take down the turbines should the company not do it themselves. He said as the value of the turbines would depreciate, the amount that would be placed in escrow at the end of each of those five-year periods would increase, as there would be less resale value and greater cost for removal.

The company has also agreed to use union labor, which Friend said should come from the local labor pool for the construction of the project. He said trying to ship workers in from other areas made no sense when there were trained workers in the regional area that could construct the turbines.

Because it would be union labor, the wages would reflect that, he said.

"I just wanted to make sure you hired local people" and pay the wages they deserve. Janice LaRue, county commissioner, said.

As for the half dozen jobs to operate the project, the biggest question Jim Cookman, vice president for project development for US Wind Force, said would be whether the work force in the region was trained to operate the turbines. Whenever possible, hiring local employees is always best, he said, as the odds are better that someone local would stay in the area rather than leave after a few years.

The final question was out of concern for the traffic on the roads.

Friend said he couldn't guarantee there wouldn't be traffic issues, but that all trucks transporting turbine parts had to be bonded and permitted as oversize loads to travel on the route from U.S. Route 220 to Pinnacle Road.


Source: http://www.times-news.com/l...

JUN 24 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/20791-mineral-commission-meets-with-us-wind-force-officials
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