In January 2003, the Conservancy Board voted to formally oppose the plans of Guascor Group to develop a 65 unit wind turbine string along the crest of Rich Mountain, crossing US33/WV55 a few miles west of Harman. We learned of this when a friend crashed a secret land-owner/developer meeting, got thrown out, and spilled the beans. This ridge traverses a giant, privately held in-holding at the heart of the Monongahela National Forest. Nearby “special places, “ (viewpoints) and their distances from the wind project include:
* Spruce Knob—8.3 mi.
* Near Point on Spruce Mountain—7 miles
* Laurel Fork North Wilderness— 1 mile
* Middle Mountain—2.2 miles
* Roaring Plains— 10 miles
* Bickle Knob Tower—9.5 miles
* Near Point on Shaver’s Mountain—4.7 miles
* Prime Viewpoint from Shaver’s Mountain— 6 miles
* Haystack Knob— 6.3 miles
* Mt. Porte Crayon— 5.5 miles
* Canaan Valley— 6 miles
Get the picture? We did. The Conservancy wrote to Guascor, issued a press release, and lobbied various luminaries and other interested parties throughout 2003 and into 2004. A man named Martin Paituvi, was the person in charge. We sought to discourage him, perhaps successfully. He went to a new company, the Greenwind Corp., which we heard had bought Guascor’s US wind development business. Then the project seemed to fade away. We heard nothing of it for perhaps two years, but then started hearing new rumors of persons unknown negotiating wind tower leases on Rich Mountain.
In January, 2008, the West Virginia Public Energy Authority held a public meeting in Charleston. Ellen Lutz of the Gamesa Corporation, presented Gamesa’s current WV wind development plans. They are currently pursuing four projects, the largest of which is, you guessed it, Rich Mountain, in Randolph County, WV. It has grown to 75 turbines, spread over 17 miles of ridge top.
In recent years, resort and residential development right along the western slope of the ridges to the immediate east of Rich Mountain has occurred. They’ll love it. Having declared their opposition years ago, the Highlands Conservancy will continue to strategize and mobilize. We’ll keep you posted
For more details of the earlier project proposed for Rich Mountain, including pictures and a map, go to http://www.wvhighlands.org/PDFs/RichMountainWind2004.pdf. The proposal this time will not be identical to the earlier one but they will be sufficiently similar to give you a good idea of the current proposal.
By Peter Shoenfeld
4 March 2008
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