A renewable energy firm hopes to build 130 wind turbines on Shenandoah Mountain in the George Washington National Forest, including sections of Rockingham and Shenandoah counties and Hardy County, W.Va.
Last week, FreedomWorks LLC, based in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., asked the Federal Aviation Administration to study the impact of building wind turbines up to 440 feet high along the mountain on the border between Virginia and West Virginia.
The company has also been involved in large wind farm developments in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Hawaii, said Managing Director Tim Williamson.
The company chose Shenandoah Mountain because the winds are suitable, and the turbines could provide clean energy to the East Coast, most notably the nation’s capital, Williamson said.
“Our whole goal is to bring renewable energy to metropolitan areas that haven’t used renewable energy in the past,” he said.
The project, which may not see construction for two to three years, would be the company’s first proposal on public land, Williamson said.
FreedomWorks LLC is in the “preapplication” stage for setting up testing for the proposed construction site.
The FAA will study the turbines’ possible effects on air traffic, and whether the structures would interfere with radar or signals from ground-based navigational aids, said Jim Peters, an agency spokesman.
The company also must consult the U.S. Department of Defense because the turbines could interfere with the department’s training routes where aircraft fly over the national forests, said Chris Rose, a spokesman for the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.
After getting that clearance, the company would make a formal application to the U.S. Forest Service for one or two sites, not the entire wind farm, Rose explained.
The process, Williamson said, is difficult because of the number of applications and regulations.
But after abandoning two other sites in Virginia, Williamson said, he and his company believe the Shenandoah Mountain site is likely to succeed.
“This is difficult but we think it has potential for success,” he said. “There aren’t too many places in Virginia that have potential for wind … most locations [in the state] are off-limits to wind [power].”
The Forest Service also would conduct tests to see “whether the wind turbines would impede birds and bats or whether there is enough wind to sustain the wind turbines,” Rose said.
The federal agency also would conduct public involvement studies and resources analyses, he said.
“This is not going to happen next week or next month. This is not yet researched – it will take awhile for the initial process,” Rose said.
In October, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed a separate proposal for a wind farm to be built in Pendleton and Hardy counties, W.Va., as well as Rockingham County.
The request was made for an unnamed company through a consulting firm, Western EcoSystems Technology Inc. of Cheyenne, Wyo., according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
FreedomWorks did not apply for that application, Williamson said.
In November, the Fish and Wildlife Service told Western the site was high-risk because it could harm animals protected by the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Golden Eagle Protection Act.
By Joan Ashley and Hannah Northey
26 March 2008
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