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Va. justices OK wind farm in Highland County

The state Supreme Court cleared the way Friday for development of Virginia’s first utility-grade wind farm in Highland County.

Neighboring landowners opposed the project, arguing that its 400-foot-tall turbines would ruin the scenery and endanger migratory birds. In their lawsuit, they claimed county officials failed to follow proper procedures in approving the project.

But the justices unanimously ruled that the lawsuit was improper because it only named the county, not the Board of Supervisors, as a defendant. The court also tossed out a claim that a permit for the project was not in “substantial accord” with the county’s comprehensive plan.

“This is an important victory for Virginia’s first renewable wind project in Highland County,” said Frank Maisano, a spokesman for Highland New Wind Development. “It is made even more important by Governor Kaine’s announcement this week outlining his aggressive clean energy goals for the commonwealth.”

David S. Bailey, attorney for the project’s opponents, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

Highland New Wind Development wants to build 19 towering wind turbines on an unforested ridge at the 4,400-foot elevation where the headwaters of three watersheds converge. The wind farm would generate about 39 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 15,000 to 20,000 homes.

In contrast, a third nuclear reactor being contemplated by Dominion Resources at its North Anna plant would generate about 1,500 megawatts of power.

Proponents of the wind farm hail it as a source of clean energy that can help stem global warming and rising fuel prices. They also say the project could mean up to $325,000 a year in additional tax revenue for a 25,000-resident county that needs light industry.

Critics, however, claim the project will discourage visitation by bird-watchers and other nature-lovers.

By Larry O’Dell



14 September 2007