By Eric Eyre
A Greenbrier County citizens group hasn’t given up its fight to block a 126-turbine wind-energy project.
Members of Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy plan to ask state Public Service Commission members to reconsider their decision earlier this week to approve the $300 million wind farm.
“Obviously, it’s a blow, it’s a disappointment,” said Dave Buhrman, media director with the Greenbrier citizens group. “The community here is thinking locally. When we compare industrial turbines to wilderness, it’s an easy choice.”
During the past year, more than 3,300 people sent letters to the PSC about the wind project. About 80 percent of the letters urged the PSC to turn down a Chicago developer’s plans to build the 186-megawatt project called the Beech Ridge Energy Wind Farm.
The project would become one of the largest electricity-generating wind farms east of the Mississippi River. It would be three times as large as West Virginia’s only existing wind project in Tucker County.
Project opponents say the massive wind turbines will spoil Greenbrier County’s scenic mountain views, and kill birds and bats.
“It’s going to be the most lit-up industrial development project in West Virginia, and they’re going to plop it right down on one of West Virginia’s most beautiful counties,” Buhrman said.
The citizens group has hired Peterstown lawyer Justin St. Clair, who plans to send a letter to the PSC by the end of the week, asking the commission’s three members to reconsider their decision.
The PSC approved Beech Ridge’s request Monday with 29 stipulations. The company, for instance, must conduct studies about the project’s impact on bats and birds during the next three years.
Buhrman said those studies should be completed before the wind project is constructed, not after.
“We already have a facility [Mountaineer Wind Farm in Tucker County] that’s one-third the size of this that’s notorious for the mortality rates of bats,” he said. “We already know wildlife is being impacted.”
Buhrman predicts the 262-foot steel turbine towers will be seen 60 to 80 miles from the project site near Rupert. The turbines will stretch across 23 miles of land leased from Connecticut-based MeadWestvaco.
Buhrman said state and federal policymakers should focus on reducing energy consumption, not on “costly and inefficient measures to produce more energy.”
“We would like to see individuals and communities move quickly to prioritize efforts to reduce energy use, such as by rewarding efficiency and conservation,” he said.
Beech Ridge, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Invenergy LLC, plans to start construction this April. The turbines could begin generating electricity as early as December 2007.
To contact staff writer Eric Eyre, use e-mail or call 348-4869.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding