Articles filed under Impact on Wildlife from Virginia
Highland New Wind is testifying that it cannot afford the wildlife protections recommended by wildlife agencies, conservation groups, and citizen respondents in the case. Despite the prospects of government incentives, which would cover the majority of development costs, it remains a marginal project, promising negligible benefits and huge environmental costs.
MONTEREY - Preparations have been under way for weeks, and this Tuesday, the State Corporation Commission will hold its second evidentiary hearing on what could be Virginia's first industrial wind energy utility. After months of testimony, the SCC did not reach a decision on whether to grant Highland New Wind Development a state permit to build its facility here atop Allegheny Mountain. Instead, the three commissioners remanded the case back to the SCC hearing examiner with instructions to gather more information, particularly on how to prevent or reduce the 39-megawatt plant's impacts on the environment, and monitor those after construction. HNWD is expected to call some of the same people it did at the first hearing to rebut testimony of expert witnesses who have spoken on behalf of The Nature Conservancy and Highland citizens opposed to the project.
The State Corporation Commission on Friday sent a proposal for Virginia's first utility-grade wind farm back to a hearing examiner for development of a plan to mitigate harm to rare birds and bats on Highland County ridges. In recommending approval last month for construction of 19 turbines, SCC hearing examiner Alexander Skirpan found that the Highland New Wind Development proposal posed a risk to birds and bats. Skirpan recommended a monitoring program, developed by the company and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, to reduce the environmental hazard.
The giant wind farm of 19 electricity-generating windmills in Highland County recently approved by the State Corporation Commission wasn't on the game department's radar. Studies elsewhere have shown that the 400-foot-high wind turbines kill bats and migrating songbirds and raptors. By the time the SCC asked the game department to review the proposal, Zadnik said, the developer had already gotten permission from the county to build.
Endangered bats and birds are at risk from Virginia's first proposed wind farm, but construction should proceed with the warning that its massive blades will be stopped at times if too many carcasses pile up. That was the decision Thursday from a State Corporation Commission hearing examiner who gave conditional approval to the controversial project in Highland County. Supporters and opponents have 21 days to comment on the hearing examiner's report. The case will then be forwarded to the commission for a final decision, which is expected early this summer.
ROANOKE -- A state hearing examiner has recommended construction of the first utility-grade wind farm in Virginia, provided it meets conditions to minimize harm to the environment. The recommendation announced Thursday goes to the State Corporation Commission, which will decide whether to approve construction of the 19-turbine development on Highland County ridges. SCC hearing examiner Alexander Skirpan found that the project by Highland New Wind Development poses a risk to bats and birds, but said a monitoring program by the company and a state agency following construction would help reduce the hazard.
No surprises here. The staff of the State Corporation Commission has concluded Highland New Wind Development’s proposal does not pose a problem for most of the requirements needed to acquire a state level permit. The one critical area SCC staff chose to leave in the hands of others is the potential environmental impacts created by the project related principally to avian wildlife.
The first utility-grade wind farm proposed in Virginia is hailed by its supporters as clean energy that can help stem global warming and rising fuel prices. But mountaintop residents near the Highland County site worry about what the blades of 18 towers taller than the Statue of Liberty would do to their environment. That would include rare or endangered birds, bats, and a few other species, as well as a wild trout stream. Eleven state agencies have reviewed the Highland New Wind Development proposal and come up with a lengthy list of suggested studies, including an analysis of the cumulative impact of wind farms on the four-state Allegheny Mountain region. The State Corporation Commission, which has final say, will conduct a public hearing Oct. 30 in Richmond on the proposal by retired poultry processor Henry McBride of Harrisonburg. His attorney, John Flora, hopes the project can benefit from a federal tax credit that expires in 2007.
The September 20, 2006 VDGIF letter states: “We support the use of alternative energy sources, including wind energy. However, based on review of the information provided thus far by the Highland project applicant, in the absence of accountable mitigation conditions . . . we feel this project presents an unacceptable risk to wildlife.”
Details and a registration form are available at the link below for the Wildlife and Wind Energy Conference to be held on Saturday, December 2, 2006 at Kutztown University in Kutztown, PA USA.
Virginia's environmental agency recommends that the developer of a proposed Highland County windmill project study the big turbines' effects on birds, bats and scenic views. The state Department of Environmental Quality passed its recommendations yesterday to the State Corporation Commission, which will approve or reject the project.
Preliminary research shows wind turbines kill thousands of bats and birds in the Appalachian Mountains, which are a major migratory flyway, scientists say.....Dan Boone, a Maryland-based botanist and wildlife scientist, said laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act aren't enough to protect against bird and bat kills, deforestation and other damage done by wind turbines.
Tom Smith, director of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation's natural-heritage program, said detailed research is needed on the windmills' potential to kill birds and bats. "It's very hard to say there's not a significant impact [on birds] and not a need for additional studies," Smith said.
RICHMOND — Formal respondents in Highland New Wind Development’s case pending before the State Corporation Commission are adding to a long list of concerns expressed already by a variety of state agencies. Among those who have weighed in recently are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which expresses serious doubts about environmental reviews conducted thus far.
There seems to be no good way to properly site these turbines on unspoiled Appalachian mountains without causing irreparable damage. The State Corporation Commission has an opportunity to do the right thing by heeding the growing warnings about negative, cumulative effects its own experts are offering.
Nineteen big windmills are proposed for Highland County ridges. A new state report says: • The windmills could kill large numbers of birds and bats. • They could drive away some tourists. • More study is needed, including collecting animal carcasses if the windmills go up.
MONTEREY — A study conducted at Highland New Wind Development’s site on Allegheny Mountain last fall found a higher rate of nocturnal migration on Red Oak Knob and Tamarack than at sites where other such studies have been conducted.