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Request declined; Commissioners decline man's bid to limit windmill operations  

The try, try and try again thing isn’t working too well for Grassy Ridge Road resident Bruce Halgren.

Last week, Halgren once again came up short in his efforts to enlist the Grant County Commission’s opposition to six wind-electric generators being erected near his property.

Halgren says these generators, which are part of a larger “wind farm” being constructed by NedPower and Shell WindEnergy, are located too close to residences and the public road.

Halgren displayed documents provided by the state Public Service Commission regarding turbine setbacks.

According to Halgren, the PSC staff has decided some turbines already approved by the commission are located too close to the road and homes.

Commissioners, however, said their own experiences with the two companies, plus past support for the “wind farm” project, make opposition to the six turbines unlikely.

“I’d be willing to read what the PSC has written,” stated commission president Jim Wilson about the PSC report, “but once said, we are simply not going to change our opinion.”

He added: “I feel they (project developers) are trying to keep safety in the forefront.”

Halgren had previously asked commissioners to take an issue on this issue. At that time, commissioners said they needed additional time to study the matter.

A stronger endorsement for the project came from a second commissioner, Charlie Goldizen Jr. He said the county has been a “Day One” supporter of the project.

Listing his reasons for declining Halgren’s request, Goldizen said it wasn’t the county’s responsibility to regulate what “happens on someone else’s property,” or to enforce safety standards which are within the responsibility of the PSC.

Additionally, Goldizen said Halgren and many other project opponents are “outsiders” who recently moved to the county.

Goldizen hinted project opponents would have a different view of the wind turbines if they were also earning revenue from lease payments.

“I think not,” objected Halgren, who owns 4.5 acres.

Denying he opposes the project as a whole, Halgren told commissioners they could take a stance against the six turbines in question without compromising their overall support.

At the heart of Halgren’s complaint are a series of safety setbacks discussed by the PSC report, as well as several international organizations. One of those groups is the Word Bank.

Halgren said international standards call for greater setback distances from roads and houses than those being used by NedPower and Shell WindEnergy. He claimed these standards were not included in the project’s state permit because they were unknown to the PSC staff at the time.

According to Halgren, international standards call for setbacks ranging upwards to 1,025 feet. In contrast, he said six turbine sites along Grassy Ridge Road are located from 123-323 feet from the pavement, and within 500 feet of homes.

Halgren said the PSC staff favors an 820-foot setback between turbine towers and homes.

Setbacks are recommended to assure cold-weather operations don’t result in pieces of turbine blade ice being flung onto roads and houses.

Four of the turbines have already been erected. Halgren said two others (#83 and #84) have yet to be constructed.

“This is unsafe,” he said.

Halgren said project developers displayed “arrogance” when they established their siting plan. He said the developers failed to disclose international setback standards to the PSC during the permit application process.

“I’m asking you to protect citizens of your own county,” said Halgren. “I want you to write to NedPower.”

Halgren is suggesting the county ask the companies to not operate the six turbines whenever cold temperatures create an ice-formation threat.

In addition to his safety issue, Halgren said some recent land sale prices in the neighborhood were probably lower than expected due to the turbines.

Goldizen, however, said it is important to note that land sales are still taking place even with the presence of the turbines.

On hand to hear the presentation was Bob Orndorff, a representative of Dominion Resources, another project supporter.

Orndorff said efforts are currently underway to reduce the threat of ice throws along Grassy Ridge Road, both to homes and motorists.

He didn’t offer any specifics, but said turbines judged too close to year-round residences would not be operated during icy conditions.

Orndorff said a plan to correct problems along Grassy Ridge Road could be completed within “two or three months.”

In addition to setback questions, residents have asked the state Division of Highways and developers to repair construction-related damage to the roadway.

Halgren speculated project developers will solve setback issues by buying too-close properties, rather than relocating or shutting down any turbines.

Orndorff denied project developers withheld international setback standards from the PSC staff during the permitting process, saying all requested information had been provided.

When Halgren asked Orndorff if he felt the six turbines in question were safe, Wilson cut off discussion and suggested the two men continue their talk at another time.

“This is not the forum to discuss this,” Wilson stated.

In a related matter, Orndorff told commissioners Dominion Power appreciated the quick response of several local fire companies to a fuel oil fire at the Mount Storm Power Station. Two of those companies cited by Orndorff were from Mount Storm and Bayard.

Volunteer firefighters provided backup assistance for the plant’s own emergency crews.

He said the fire caused some damage to the exterior of boiler #3, but quick action by employees prevented any major losses.

Grant County Press

6 December 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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