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Wind project clash expected - Plan for turbines topic of public hearing today

The Charleston Gazette| Eric Eyre, Staff Writer|April 25, 2006
West VirginiaGeneralZoning/Planning

For months, supporters and opponents of a proposed 124-turbine wind project in Greenbrier County have dueled through news releases and letters to the state Public Service Commission.


This afternoon, both sides will have a chance to speak at a public hearing at the State Fair grounds in Fairlea.
 
In a rare move, West Virginia’s public service commissioners will hold a hearing on a proposed project near where it will be built.
 
Dozens of people are expected to speak this afternoon at the fairgrounds’ Underwood Building, starting at 1:30 p.m.
 
More than 2,000 letters of protest over the project have been sent to the PSC. Wind project opponents say Beech Ridge Energy’s $300 million project would spoil mountain views, decrease property values, decrease tourism in Greenbrier County, and kill birds and bats.
 
Opponents also say the company has filed a mistake-riddled application with the PSC.
 
“According to their application, you can’t see their turbines even if you’re standing right under them,” said Dave Buhrman, who heads an anti-wind project group called Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy. “They just really messed up. They thought they could just sneak this right in as a great renewable energy thing.”
 
Dave Groberg, the project’s director ... more [truncated due to possible copyright]

     

This afternoon, both sides will have a chance to speak at a public hearing at the State Fair grounds in Fairlea.
 
In a rare move, West Virginia’s public service commissioners will hold a hearing on a proposed project near where it will be built.
 
Dozens of people are expected to speak this afternoon at the fairgrounds’ Underwood Building, starting at 1:30 p.m.
 
More than 2,000 letters of protest over the project have been sent to the PSC. Wind project opponents say Beech Ridge Energy’s $300 million project would spoil mountain views, decrease property values, decrease tourism in Greenbrier County, and kill birds and bats.
 
Opponents also say the company has filed a mistake-riddled application with the PSC.
 
“According to their application, you can’t see their turbines even if you’re standing right under them,” said Dave Buhrman, who heads an anti-wind project group called Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy. “They just really messed up. They thought they could just sneak this right in as a great renewable energy thing.”
 
Dave Groberg, the project’s director for Beech Ridge, said Monday that he’s unaware of any mistakes in the application.
 
He said anti-wind groups have spread “exaggerations and misrepresentations” about the wind turbines.
 
Groberg said the project’s benefits — jobs and increased local property tax revenues for Greenbrier County — far outweigh any possible negatives.
 
“We’re going to tout the benefits of wind energy and explain why this project should be built,” he said. “People always have concerns, but once the projects are built, those concerns often turn out to be nothing.”
 
On Monday, the Affiliated Construction and Trades Foundation released a study that says the Beech Ridge wind project would have at least a $25 million impact on West Virginia’s economy.
 
In the study, a Johns Hopkins University researcher determined that the Beech Ridge project would create 215 new construction jobs over nine months. Another 100 jobs would be created in architectural and engineering services, food service, automotive repair and maintenance, the study found.
 
Beech Ridge has signed an agreement with the state Building and Construction Trades Council to hire union workers to build the facility.
 
After construction, Beech Ridge is expected to hire 20 full-time workers with an annual payroll of about $700,000.
 
Last week, the West Virginia Forestry Association passed a resolution supporting the project.
 
The wind turbines would snake across 23 miles of mountain ridges in northern Greenbrier County.
 
If approved, the project would become the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi River. It would be three times the size of the state’s only existing wind farm in Tucker County. Each turbine would be 260 feet tall, each with three blades about 130 feet long.
 
Beech Ridge plans to start construction later this summer, and the turbines would begin generating electricity as early as 2007.
 
A second public hearing will be May 10 at the PSC’s office in Charleston. Evidentiary hearings will follow on May 11 and 12.
 
To contact staff writer Eric Eyre, use e-mail or call 348-4869.


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