Big wind turbines could eventually be producing electricity from the high ridges of the George Washington National Forest.
An unnamed company has started the application process to build 131 of the massive wind turbines in the national forest in Rockingham County and along the border between Virginia’s Shenandoah County and Hardy County in West Virginia.
“We’re in the pre-application stage” with the company proposing to build the turbines, Chris Rose, a spokesman for the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests, said Monday. Rose declined to name the company, citing its early application status, which allows the federal agency to keep the name confidential.
Rose said the company must first gain regulatory approval from the Federal Aviation Administration because of the height of the turbines, which would top out at around 440 feet.
Rose said the unnamed company could initially seek approval to carry out “wind testing” at four or five sites on the forest land in order to determine the possible wind power available to create electricity. That approval, like other steps in the process, would entail public hearings.
“It’s not going to be a quick process,” Rose said.
If approved, the turbines would be built along the crest of Shenandoah Mountain on the western side of the Shenandoah Valley, said Rick Webb, who operates the Web site called vawind.org, which monitors the wind industry in the Appalachians.
Webb, a senior environmental scientist at the University of Virginia, said the turbines would stretch for miles along the ridge top, endangering bats and birds by the thousands.
“We have a regional problem here,” Webb said. “I think we’re going to fill up the forested ridges in the Appalachians with turbines if the wind industry has its way. The electricity provided by the turbines is simply not worth the environmental impact.”
Proponents of wind power say the turbines produce cleaner energy than coal, oil and other power sources.
Ralph Grove Jr., a James Madison University professor who heads the Sierra Club’s Shenandoah group, said, “Our only stand on this is that the state should be more proactive on the siting of wind farms to make sure they don’t go to inappropriate places.”
A proponent of wind power, Grove said he believes that wind farms should be built off-shore.
The state approved its first commercial wind farm last year. Highland New Wind Development LLC plans to build and operate up to 20 turbines on a Highland County ridgetop. Some Highland County residents fiercely opposed the project, citing concern for wildlife, such as federally protected bats and raptors, and aesthetic reasons.
By Carlos Santos
Media General News Service
25 March 2008
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