A global electric company wants to build a $250 million wind-power plant with up to 65 turbines on a ridge top near Elkins.
AES Corp. of Arlington, Va., could begin transmitting power by the end of next year, if it gets all the necessary regulatory approvals, the company says in a Jan. 31 filing with the state Public Service Commission.
The turbines would connect to an existing 138-kilovolt Allegheny Energy Inc. transmission line that cuts through the proposed site, the filing says. They would generate roughly 125 megawatts to be sold to Valley Forge, Pa.-based PJM Interconnection LLC, a company established by the federal government in 1999 to manage the electric transmission grid in the Mid-Atlantic states.
Construction would create up to 279 temporary jobs and as much as $17 million in economic development over a 10-month period, according to AES projections. The plant itself would employ 19 while creating 13 jobs indirectly, the filing says.
Along with the turbines, construction would entail road improvements and new access roads, a buried-cable system and the erection of a substation, operations building and meteorological tower.
Located on Laurel Mountain, straddling the Barbour-Randolph county line, the plant would take up about 8,500 acres, ranging in width from 600 feet to 1,300 feet. Belington is about 3 miles to the east, and Elkins 3 miles northwest.
AES would become “one of the biggest property taxpayers in Barbour and Randolph counties,” paying more than $450,000 per year, the application says. “This project will have a positive economic impact on the local communities, as well as the state of West Virginia.”
AES cites the area’s “excellent wind resource” and remoteness. The land is mostly used for timber harvesting, and much of it is owned by timber companies that endorse the project, the application says.
In addition to approval from the PSC, AES will need permission from the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Aviation Administration and the state Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Natural Resources, Department of Health and Human Resources, Division of Culture and History and Department of Transportation and the health departments in Barbour and Randolph counties.
AES operates in 28 countries on five continents and runs 121 generation plants. Last year it reported $11.6 billion in revenue. A spokeswoman for the company did not return a call for comment.
It will pay for 40 percent to 60 percent of the construction, with unnamed private lenders financing the rest.
A lawyer for the AFL-CIO has asked the PSC for permission to intervene in the case, “in order to ensure the construction will have a positive impact on local employment.”
The application has also already drawn five protest letters from individuals to the PSC.
“I strongly oppose the granting of a siting certificate for the AES Laurel Mountain Wind turbine facility,” writes Eve Firor of Franklin. “This makes the sixth wind turbine project on the Appalachian ridges to come before the PSC, [and] I believe the cumulative impact on the environment and view shed of these projects must be part of the PSC’s consideration.”
By Joe Morris
13 February 2008
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