Articles filed under General from Virginia
In the area of fossil fuel emissions, emotions seem to have obliterated logic. Pollution control laws have brought about necessary changes, much like that of sewage control laws. Virginia and California are the only two states that must buy electricity from other states at the present time. Therefore, when the crunch of limited supply comes, as it will, these two states will be the first to suffer. The experts looking into alternate energy sources are coming up with dismal solutions.
Highland New Wind Development is stepping up its search for investors, with plans to attend some regional conferences and meetings with potential backers in the next couple of months. HNWD will need financial support for its proposed 39-megawatt wind energy utility, expected to cost upwards of $60 million to construct. The company also needs to secure several permits and other state and federal approvals before it can build.
Apparently hoping that a proposed agreement between the staff of the West Virginia Public Service Commission and Allegheny Energy would put a better face on the utility's proposed Trans-Allegheny Interstate Power Line project, the Hampshire County Commission received an e-mail request to reverse its opposition to the project. Commissioners Don Cookman, Steve Slonaker and Robert Hott, however, all agreed that would not happen.
Highland New Wind Development is making some progress in meeting permit conditions to build Virginia's first wind energy utility, but according to state officials, there's no state coordination for the process under one agency. In the last couple of months, Highland supervisor David Blanchard has pressed HNWD owner H.T. "Mac" McBride for more information on exactly what conditions it must meet, and with which agencies. McBride, thus far, has not provided those details to the county board. There are a number of permits the company needs, plus several other steps HNWD must take to meet requirements set forth by Highland County and the State Corporation Commission. Those include getting approvals for things as recommended by the state Department of Environmental Quality.
Two of the nation's largest energy companies have announced they will jointly develop wind farms in Virginia. ...So now the question to ask is are these companies considering coming to the Valley for these farms? A spokesperson says there's a good chance that a wind farm could be developed in the Valley because of the strength and consistency of the wind here. However, some say wind energy isn't the answer. Rick Webb, a Senior Scientist with the Department of Environmental Sciences at UVA, says, "I don't believe that wind turbine development on Appalachian ridges will make a serious contribution to solving our energy needs."
A company has applied to the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to build 131 wind turbines along 18 miles of ridge line between Virginia and West Virginia. The 440-foot turbines would tower above national forest land in Shenandoah, Rockingham and Hardy counties. If approved, work on the project could start as early as 2010. That, of course, is a pretty big if. As attractive as the concept is - letting wind generate electricity instead of air-polluting coal or expensive Middle Eastern oil - the wind farm proposal will almost certainly trigger a battle royal between corporate interests and valley residents.
The 131 turbines, each 440 feet tall, would cover 18 miles of ridgecrest, according to private consultant D. Daniel Boone, a conservation biologist and policy analyst. Ninety turbines would be located in Virginia with the other 41 in Hardy County, according to Boone. Boone prepared a map stipulating each turbine based upon the coordinates provided in the 7460-1 applications filed with the Federal Aviation Agency by an unknown developer. "Each wind turbine has a separate 7460-1 application filed with FAA," Boone said.
Thus, under the guise of environmental values, public policy in Virginia is promoting renewable energy. But under a different set of environmental values, we'll find that many of those projects are undesirable. To my way of thinking, energy conservation is the most pristine environmental policy of all -- avoid consuming the electricity in the first place. Of course, our current regulatory apparatus encourages Dominion and other electric utilities to pursue renewable energy sources, whatever the cost, because they can pass on the cost to rate payers. By contrast, power companies in Virginia only undercut their market when they invest in conservation measures. We're getting what we wished for, and we may not like it.
But the fact that interest is out there for such a project is a sign of things to come, said Rick Webb, operator of www.vawind.org and a senior scientist with the environmental sciences department at the University of Virginia. "This is probably the tip of the iceberg," he said. Eighteen miles of national forest ridgeline, most of which is on Shenandoah Mountain, stands to be affected by the proposal, Webb said. "It's industrializing our national forest," he said. "The question is whether it's worth the trade-off. In my conclusion, it is not. The electricity produced is just a drop in the bucket."
Proposals for wind farms in the Valley are whipping up opposing viewpoints about the structures' effects on wildlife, local vistas and energy production. Opponents say the turbines, each hundreds of feet tall, would mar the local landscape and endanger bats and birds, some of which are federally protected. But proponents say the farms can be built with minimum impact on the environment to offer clean, alternative energy and a break from the nation's dependency on foreign oil. ...After studying maps and coordinates provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, consultant D. Daniel Boone, a conservation biologist and policy analyst, said the FreedomWorks' project could negatively affect untouched areas of the George Washington National Forest. "Other than a power line and one small road which crosses between Hardy and Shenandoah counties, the project area is completely undisturbed forest with no sign of logging roads or clear-cuts," Boone stated.
An unnamed company has started the application process to build 131 of the massive wind turbines in the national forest in Rockingham County and along the border between Virginia's Shenandoah County and Hardy County in West Virginia. "We're in the pre-application stage" with the company proposing to build the turbines, Chris Rose, a spokesman for the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests, said Monday. Rose declined to name the company, citing its early application status, which allows the federal agency to keep the name confidential.
Both county and state permits have been granted to Highland New Wind Development for Virginia's first industrial wind utility, but there seems to be some confusion about what happens next. Part of the trouble stems from determining exactly what the company needs to do in order to proceed with construction. There are a number of permits it needs, but there are several other steps HNWD must take to meet requirements set forth by Highland County and the State Corporation Commission. Those include getting approvals on a number of things as recommended by the state Department of Environmental Quality. And some of those will apparently be tough to get without a final site plan of the project.
Highland citizens have once again reminded county supervisors of their intent to sue the board if proper conditions are not met by Highland New Wind Development LLC. In a Feb. 27 letter addressed to the board, county attorney Melissa Dowd, county administrator Roberta Lambert, and zoning administrator Jim Whitelaw, the law firm of Woods Rogers outlined the citizens' expectations based on the conditional use permit granted to the developer July 14, 2005. Attorney James Jennings, writing on behalf of his clients, first contacted the county in July 2005 informing officials that if they granted a building permit to HNWD they could be violating the Endangered Species Act.
We've said before that it's important that Highland do this soul-searching together as a community before charting its course. The initial signal has been that the development is worth the cost. But we do worry that the big picture can get lost in what's essentially a locally focused debate. ...Wind power might seem a hopelessly inadequate measure, compared with our energy needs and it's only a drop in the bucket. But it's time we get busy trying to figure out how to fill that new bucket, because the old one has a hole in it.
With nearly 19 years under his belt as a commissioner for Virginia's State Corporation Commission, Judge Theodore "Ted" V. Morrison Jr. knows a thing or two about electric utilities. ...Morrison stressed the federal production tax credits are what make commercial wind facilities attractive, but the reality is, the renewable electricity utilities will never substantially change the country's need for larger power plants. "These things are all taxpayer-subsidized. All those tax credits - we pay for that. People tend to forget that," he says. "Maybe 39 megawatts is important, but good gosh, Virginia Power they'll get 200 megawatts out of one plant - there's a 19,000 megawatt portfolio. (This project) is largely 'symbolic.' I wish people would get realistic about the promise of renewables." Morrison believes renewable power won't provide enough electricity in this country to make a dent in the need for large utilities, and HNWD's small facility will be a drop in the bucket. Does he think it will make a difference? "I do not," he said.
Once again, the wind energy industry wants to avoid reasonable regulations to protect wildlife. (RTD 1/19/08) On their behalf, Senator Wagner, ( R Va Beach), has submitted a bill which would exclude wind factories with less than 50 megawatt capacity from any state regulations. For six years, I have watched this fledgling Virginia industry at every avenue, seek to avoid the issue of wildlife protection. ...We taxpayers have a right to demand that these developers be responsible, and especially that our subsidies to the wind industry not be used to the detriment of our wildlife.
Plans for Virginia's first wind farm are breezing along, just as demand for wind-generated electricity appears to be going up. Last month, the State Corporation Commission granted Highland New Wind Development permission to construct and operate up to 20 wind turbines at a mountaintop site. In recent days, the deadline passed for those who disagree with the decision to appeal. As a result, the company is moving forward on at least two fronts.
A company seeking to build 19 windmills in rural Highland County, amid considerable opposition, fought for more than four years to get local and state approval. State Sen. Frank W. Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, wants to smooth the path for similar projects that follow. Under a bill proposed by Wagner, small producers of renewable energy -- those creating 50 megawatts or less -- would be exempt from State Corporation Commission authority. They still would need local approval.
Last week, the State Corporation Commission granted conditional approval for the company to build up to 20 turbines, each about 400 feet tall, on Red Oak Knob and Tamarack Ridge near the West Virginia border. ...McBride's project faced considerable opposition from environmentalists. It was widespread among residents who see Highland County as a pristine rural area and "a sort of last frontier," Sullenberger said. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries summarized the opposition in a September 2006 letter to the SCC. "We support the use of alternative energy sources, including wind energy" the DGIF said. "However, we feel this project presents an unacceptable risk to wildlife."
Partly because of this experience, I am a strong advocate of wind power. But the letter from Richard White ("Windmills won't destroy mountaintops," Nov. 30) advocating 40,000 wind turbines along the Appalachian Mountains is so absurd that it has caused me to write in response to the nonsense proposed by local fans (pun intended) of wind power.