One energy company’s dream of building giant electricity-generating wind turbines in Patrick County could end next month, when county officials plan to ban structures higher than 100 feet.
The 20 wind turbines that Community Energy Inc. of Wayne, Pa., is considering building would stand several hundred feet high.
Responding to a community outcry over the turbines, the county Board of Supervisors this month signaled it will move to ban all tall structures, with the exception of cell towers and church steeples, when it meets Feb. 12.
The supervisors said they were prompted to take the action after surveying Patrick landowners in the fall. The county sent out about 14,500 surveys to landowners asking them if they would support a ban on structures taller than 100 feet. By an almost 3-to-1 ratio, respondents supported the ban – 3,582 voted in favor of it, 1,275 opposed it.
A lone supervisor, Roger Martin, supports construction of the turbines, and he has questioned the legality of any ordinance that targets them.
But Assistant County Administrator Mike Burnette said the county attorney has told supervisors the ban would hold up in court. “He’s pretty comfortable with it.”
Matt Heck, wind-reserves manager for Community Energy, said the company is disappointed with the supervisors’ action but does not know yet if the ban means the wind-turbine project is dead in Patrick. “We respect their decision and will need to spend some time studying that decision,” he said
Community Energy has been operating wind farms since 1999 and has more than 50,000 residential energy customers. The company disclosed early last year that it has been studying whether the wind patterns in Patrick make the construction of wind turbines there feasible.
The company is looking at two sites for a possible wind farm: Bull Mountain near Patrick Springs and Belcher Mountain in the Meadows of Dan area near the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The community has been divided. Some like the idea of wind turbines as a clean energy source, but others say the turbines would ruin the scenery, reduce land values and kill birds.
The debate has mirrored that among residents of Highland County, where Highland New Wind Development has proposed building 19 windmills on a 4,300-foot ridge along the West Virginia state line. The State Corporation Commission is currently considering that proposal.
Contact staff writer Rex Bowman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (540) 344-3612.
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