Thursday evening, Elkins City Council formally voted against a proposed 125-Megawatt wind farm that would stretch across Laurel Mountain though Barbour and Randolph Counties.
The vote will not play a direct role in determining the fate of the project. The West Virginia state Public Service Commission will have the final say on the issue, which will not be voted on for several months.
None of the proposed wind turbines would be constructed in Elkins city limits.
Residents attending Thursdays meeting say they support the council’s opposition to the project. They say building a wind energy operation would significantly compromise the natural beauty of the ridge and could prompt several of the areas residents to relocate if the project is approved.
In a prepared statement, AES LLC – the company that would operate the facility – said, “The action of Council is surprising since no part of this project is located within the city limits. However, we anticipate city residents will benefit from the 100 construction jobs and there will be 10 permanent job. Local businesses will be positively impacted and Randolph County will benefit by approximately a quarter million dollars in new taxes from the project.”
Bob Muirl represented AES at Thursday’s council meeting. He says the project would also generate other revenue for the area through construction material purchases that would be made locally.
Opponents of the project say the short-term impact construction would create and the long-term employment opportunities do not out weigh the negative impact the turbines would have on the mountain and the people that live there.
They say that while wind energy is considered to be “green”, there are several other environmentally friendly options that would be better suited for the area.
Muirl said he recognizes the fact that many people in the area are opposed to the construction of the wind farm, and said misinformation has played a large role in the negative sentiment.
Laurel Mountain residents said they would like to see more research done on the use of wind energy before the technology be implemented in Randolph and Barbour Counties.
Muirl said the process of getting the project approved is almost a year long and that the next eight months will be spent educating the public and policy makers on wind energy and the potential positive impact it could have.
13 March 2008
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