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Amid no appeals, plans for wind farm move ahead

Plans for Virginia’s first wind farm are breezing along, just as demand for wind-generated electricity appears to be going up.

Last month, the State Corporation Commission granted Highland New Wind Development permission to construct and operate up to 20 wind turbines at a mountaintop site.

In recent days, the deadline passed for those who disagree with the decision to appeal. As a result, the company is moving forward on at least two fronts.

Company spokesman Frank Maisano said Wednesday the company is or soon will be poised to seek a building permit or permits from Highland County, where the site is located. Construction could begin this year and would take nine months to complete, he said.

In addition, the company is looking for investors to finance the wind farm’s construction, he said. The construction cost has been estimated at $60 million.

On the latter issue, “there is incredible interest in the project,” Maisano said. “In the next couple of weeks, in the next month, you’ll see a lot of knocks on our door.”

Maisano said he did not know the minimum investment.

The company has not yet ordered turbines, Maisano said.

As Highland Wind plans Virginia’s first wind-generated electrical utility, major U.S. energy companies are shopping for power made from renewable sources.

Appalachian Power Co. said earlier this week that it will increase the amount of electricity it sells that is generated from renewable sources to 4 percent by 2010 and 12 percent by 2022, including wind, water and other technologies.

The company, which relies on coal-fired power plants, made public the signing of long-term contracts with wind farms in Indiana and Illinois that add 175 megawatts of wind-generated power to the electricity the company sells in Virginia.

It’s unclear at this point whether Appalachian will ultimately buy the power generated in Highland County. Appalachian said it is interested in discussing opportunities with a company such as Highland Wind or any company that could help the company meet its goal.

“We will talk to any renewable provider who wants to talk or who seeks to develop some kind of relationship,” said Appalachian spokesman John Shepelwich.

By Jeff Sturgeon

The Roanoke Times

24 January 2008