The reception was somewhat on the chilly side, Tuesday, when a pair of mountaintop residents brought their protests about windpower electricity to the Grant County Commission.
Residents Bruce Halgren and Richard Spicer appeared before commissioners as part of a campaign to reduced the number of windpowered turbines being erected in the community by NedPower and Shell Renewables and Hydrogen.
The pair asked commissioners to oppose six turbines to be constructed within 820 feet of public roadways. They say the turbines present an “ice throw” hazard to motorists on Grassy Ridge Road and state Route 93.
Commissioners, however, appeared unreceptive to the request, saying they have confidence in state utility regulators to protect the public.
Citing a recent state Public Service Commission decision to ban the construction of four towers within 820 feet of homes, Halgren said the same standard should be applied to roadways.
According to Halgren, “ice throw” is a wintertime problem which has already been recognized within the windpower industry. He said turbine blades accumulate ice during cold weather, eventually casting it off when the buildup becomes too heavy.
“It creates a danger zone … people using the roads,” Hagren said about flying chunks of ice. “Will the Grant County Commission support a policy opposing turbines located close the routes in Grant County?”
Halgren displayed a photograph which he said shows a Petersburg Oil truck struck by ice thrown by a Tucker County wind farm turbine. Commissioner Charlie Goldizen Jr. said he’d check with the company regarding the incident.
Halgren said one of the six turbines is located within 117 feet of a roadway. Four others are within 200 feet. Considering turbines will have blades measuring up to 150 feet in length, Halgren said that means they will overhang the roadway in this case.
Spicer told commissioners he isn’t necessarily opposed to the whole project, but worries about his children’s safety while near turbines.
Halgren said the 820-foot limit grew out of standards adopted in Europe. Recognizing the commission is already on record in favor of the project, Halgren said county officials could still offer opposition to these specific turbines.
Goldizen, however, said both men are recognized as opponents of the windpower project, having appeared at past public hearings. The commissioner minimized dangers posed by the turbines, saying computerized control equipment monitors ice problems.
In the case of icy conditions, Goldizen is confident these controls will shut down the turbines before a dangerous situation develops.
“This has all been looked at,” said Goldizen. “Safety factors have been looked into.”
The commissioner asked both men how long they’d lived in the county. Halgren said he has been a five-year resident. Spicer has owned his land for nine years, moving here about a year ago.
Halgren agreed he opposes some of the turbines, especially those close to roadways and Mount Storm (Vepco) Lake.
Commissioner Jim Wilson expressed “appreciation” to both men for their expressions of concern. He said county officials will relay those concerns to company representatives.
“It is an issue,” Wilson said. “We will at least ask a question or two.”