The state Public Service Commission says a developer can’t build a wind farm in Pendleton County because its application lacks information on several key issues, including the project’s impact on cultural resources and noise.
In an order released Friday, the PSC rejected Liberty Gap Wind Force LLC’s application for a permit for the proposed 50-turbine Liberty Gap wind farm. It was the second setback for the wind industry in West Virginia in less than a month.
On June 8, the state Supreme Court revived a lawsuit challenging a wind farm proposed for Grant County.
Frank Maisano, a spokesman for a coalition of wind developers in West Virginia, said Liberty Gap, whose parent is U.S. WindForce LLC, is disappointed with the PSC’s decision and will review its options. Maisano said the decision also is a disappointment for Pendleton County, which will lose jobs and tax revenue that the wind farm would have created.
“There is a huge interest in moving renewable power projects forward and it’s unfortunate that we’re taking some backward steps in West Virginia because West Virginia is a real opportunity, not just for the environment but for many communities like Pendleton County and Grant County that don’t have the opportunity to get economic development and new revenue,” he said.
The Pendleton County wind farm, estimated to cost between $175 million and $190 million, would produce up to 125 megawatts of electricity that would be sold on the wholesale market. It would be located along an approximately 7-mile stretch of a ridgetop on Jack Mountain near Franklin, the PSC said.
In its application, Liberty Gap did not comply with a siting rule that requires a map showing communities, public or private recreational areas, churches, archaeological sites, land use classification and other entities within a 5-mile radius of the wind farm that potentially could be affected, the PSC said.
“This is not a situation where a few incidental items were overlooked in preparing the map. That might be understandable. This particular map and the process used to develop it were fundamentally flawed, and the 5-mile map falls significantly short of meeting the requirements of the Siting Rules,” the PSC said.
Liberty Gap’s application also lacked information about the wind farm’s impact on noise and views from public sites. Without such information, the PSC said it can’t balance the interests of the public, the developer and other parties in determining whether to approve the project.
The agency warned other developers to not make the same mistake.
“There is frequently a rush to get these applications ‘in the Commission hopper.’ The Commission urges caution,” the agency said.
Maisano said Liberty Gap had corrected deficiencies noted by the PSC. He also said other projects did not provide information on their impact on cultural resources until after they had received permits.
“In our defense, this is the first time through what is a very difficult and cumbersome process and there are naturally going to be times when you are not going to make the right move,” he said.
Maisano said he hopes the PSC’s decision and the earlier court ruling concerning the Grant County project are not “a reflection overall of things to come.”
By Pam Ramsey
Associated Press Writer
22 June 2007
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