By David Cottrill
Unless Monday’s Public Service Commission’s ruling is reversed on appeal, 124 wind turbines will be erected on 500 acres in the northwestern part of Greenbrier County.
Construction of the 40-story behemoths will begin in the spring. Power generated will be sold to an eastern grid that does not include West Virginia.
Beech Ridge, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Invenergy, will lease most of its acreage from MeadWestvaco.
Opponents of the project include land owners in the vicinity who fear for their property values. They and others have raised concerns about noise, strobe effect, bird/bat kills, and the effect on the area’s growing tourism industry, fearing the giants will spoil mountain views. Other opponents included The Greenbrier resort, the county’s legislative delegation, and the county’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Supporters point to temporary construction jobs, 20 permanent maintenance positions, and anticipated tax revenue for the county.
“My concern,” said a Fairlea resident who wished to remain anonymous, “is that this is just the tip of the iceberg, that every windy knoll in the county will, in time, be covered with the industrial machines. Many of us moved here for the views, which will now be spoiled for sure. They should put them where scenic tourism is not an issue.”
The PSC attached conditions to its approval. Beech Ridge, for instance, must conduct a three-year study of bird/bat kills once it is operational. Lighting of towers must be limited to air safety requirements. Noise buffers are to be in place for the construction phase. Construction hours are limited to weekdays (7-7), etc.
In response to the news, CVB’s director Kim Cooper said, “We stand behind our position that no definitive studies have been performed that indicate what impact these types of projects have on the tourism industry. We certainly don’t want to gain one industry at the expense of another one.
“We at the CVB stand behind out mission, which is to promote the entire Greenbrier County area as a premiere tourist destination.”
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