A company is looking to put up more than 100 wind turbines in the George Washington National Forest. Critics are already claiming that the move would not be worthwhile and forest officials caution that it is too soon to be alarmed.
Officials with the George Washington National Forest are not naming the company involved because they say this plan is just in its infancy. The turbines, 131 of them, could stretch across a large area of the forest near where Hardy County, West Virginia and Shenandoah and Rockingham counties in Virginia meet.
“It’s serious. It’s an industrial intrusion in a national forest,” says Rick Webb, a research scientist with the UVA Department of Environmental Science. “The benefits are simply not worth the environmental trade-off.”
Web says the amount of electricity that would be produced by the turbines is minuscule.
“It’s a relatively trivial amount in relation to the amount of electricity in Virginia used on an annual basis,” says Webb.
Advocates of wind-generated energy point out that it’s less damaging to the environment than energy derived from coal and oil. Webb says he’s concerned that the 400-foot structures can be dangerous to bird and bat populations. However, officials with the forest say that it’s simply too early to tell.
“You’re looking at quite a while before you could actually see turbines appear on the forest,” says Chris Rose, a representative of the forest.
Rose also says any plans would need to be approved by the public. Webb encourages people to inform themselves about the potential drawbacks of installing the turbines, including offering a website he runs for information.
“Some people who are uninformed but have good intentions will advocate for this kind of development,” says Webb. “By the same token, a number of others will be in opposition to it.”
Last year, the state approved its first commercial wind farm. Opponents of that project also cited wildlife concerns.
Reporter: Michael Hyland
25 March 2008
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