I’d like to recommend some light reading for long winter nights to residents of Randolph and Barbour counties, especially those folks along Harrison Avenue on the west side of Elkins. Download the AES Laurel Mountain Wind Project application from the Public Service Commission and pick a chapter. You might have to wait for this 1,381-page document. And the PSC has made it nearly impossible to download its three 10.4, 67.3 and 110MB-sized volumes on a dial-up connection, which the majority of effected residents have.
The chapter I read last evening deals with shadow flicker, the phenomenon caused when morning or evening sunlight creates a strobe effect across the ground as the light passes through the turning blades of the turbines which would make it look like you were repeatedly turning your room lights on and off for half an hour or so at a time. You can find this section online at www.psc.state.wv.us/imaged_files/docket/2008_01/dck20080131114706.pdf.
Since most readers won’t be able to do the download, let me give the abridged version. The ending is predictable: not to worry. “ … it is expected that the potential for shadow flicker on nearby residences is minimal.” Those residences? In the eight miles of the 66-turbine project, the AES study found only four dwellings (which they call receptors), only one of which was a “permanent residence.” They go on to say that they have lease agreements with the effected properties, so why worry. Those four residences are grouped in two locations yet the AES site maps acknowledge that there are seven of these flicker zones they have identified, the largest being on the outskirts of Elkins. The report assures us that shadow flicker is not a problem for people a little more than six-tenths of a mile away and that the leaves of the trees around the dwellings will minimize the effect. Another mitigating factor, they say, is not having windows facing the turbines.
AES acknowledges that shadow flicker is a problem, but makes the assumption that if it doesn’t fall on a house, the problem goes away. I own property in a flicker zone. What about my property and the hundreds of acres that are affected in their conservatively plotted flicker zones where no one has built yet? That someone, like me, might plan to someday build on, sell that land or leave it in my will to my children, is left out of the equation.
Wind farms are a nuisance and have a depressing effect on property values. Landowners who lease to wind farm developers, as well as the developers themselves, should be held responsible for the loss in value they cause to neighboring property, especially in areas that have been studied and they have admitted are problematic.
What about the property value of land outside the seven zones? I recommend that private landowners along the eight-mile route of the proposed project go the PSC Web site and do a little reading. They also might want to let the PSC know their feelings.
Tonight I’m going to tackle the chapter on bats.
22 March 2008
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