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Site Analysis: Poor Mountain proposed wind project  

Author:  | Environment, Siting, Virginia, Wildlife

These charts present data relevant to the wind siting guidelines provided by Sierra Club Wind Siting Advisory dated Nov. 2003, as applied to the wind project proposed for siting at Poor Mountain.

The salient change is that each Wind Siting Criterion now is associated with descriptions of features which allow a site to be characterized as either Most, Marginally, or Least appropriate with respect to each criterion. Any site which scores Least Appropriate on one or more criteria would render serious doubt as to suitability for a wind project.

Most of Sierra Club’s criteria actually are surrogates for “amount of wildlife habitat to be bulldozed”; which given the source as being Sierra Club – an organization sworn to protect wilderness values – is understandable. For example, under “Infrastructure” more credit is given to sites with preexisting power transmission lines. This avoids the need to build extensive new power lines, at the cost of bulldozing large areas of wildlife habitat. Similarly, being near major population centers reduces the amount of land which would have to be disrupted to access a new wind project. And to eliminate any trace of doubt as to their intent, Sierra Club also explicitly includes the variable, “Impact on Wildlife and/or Habitat”.

The value of using surrogate criteria rather than actual environmental impacts in the early phases of siting efforts is that it’s usually much faster and less costly to screen large areas of land qualitatively rather than quantitatively. By putting forth environmentally-conscious criteria for use by energy developers, Sierra Club performed the public service (intentionally or otherwise) of providing a means to orient attention away from what might end up being contentious sites which drain time, energy, and money from both developers & opponents. …

Strictly speaking, because Poor Mountain does not satisfy Sierra Club’s sole EXCLUSIONARY criterion of wind power potential, the proposed site should be eliminated from further consideration. However, in light of current confusion surrounding industry-standard siting practices, Evaluative criteria also are discussed in the following charts [full discussions are included in the original document, available for download below].

Current and/or Recent Land Use: federally excluded areas: national parks, wilderness areas, etc.; critical habitat for rare, threatened or endangered species; habitat for indigenous species critical to regional/state biodiversity. – Least appropriate

Infrastructure: existing infrastructure would require expanding and/or upgrading. – Marginally appropriate

Geographic Relation to Human Population: near major population and/or other power consumption centers [how near? how large a population?]. – Marginally appropriate

Impact on Wildlife and/or Habitat: unacceptable impact on wildlife or habitat, IAW credible environmental review [what level or type of impact is acceptable? to whom? how is reviewer credibility determined?]. – Least appropriate

Impairment of Scenic Value: important scenic values would be impaired [how is a scenic value deemed unimportant? what degrees or types of change constitute “no impairment”? how can scenic impairment be mitigated? what level or type of impairment is acceptable?]. – Least appropriate

Bottom Line: The Weight of Evidence shows that Poor Mountain must be rejected as UNSUITABLE for siting the proposed wind project.

Hollister Hartman is the author of several publications related to the fields of Civil Engineering and Natural Resource Management. She received her BS Degree in Biology from Yale University and her PhD in Population Biology (Applied Mathematics) from the University of California, Riverside. She also received certification in Multi-Attribute Decision Making from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Hartman’s professional siting experience includes instituting integration of Geographic Information Systems, managing geophysical/biocultural modeling for compliance of EPA regulations, and developing/implementing site selection methodologies for Hard Mobile Launcher, Small ICBM, and Peacekeeper deployment.

Additionally, she identified pivotal geological and engineering criteria underlying intractable nuclear waste repository siting issues for the U.S Department of Energy Yucca Mountain Project, overseeing project performance against federal, state and local regulations.

Dr. Hartman served in leadership positions with the National Research Council, the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA) and numerous consortium appointments. She serves her community as Vice Chair of the Sierra Club/Roanoke, VA Group; Member of the Franklin County Planning Commission Technical Advisory Committee and Technical Analyst for defenders of Poor Mountain, VA.

Download original document: “Site Analysis: Poor Mountain proposed wind project

This article is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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