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Windmill economics

Your windmill debate coverage is much appreciated. Your quote of Joel Martin of the West Virginia Green Energy Alliance (WVGEA) shows a very articulate reasoning, but he is sure in his mind that his project is justified and that the state Public Service Commission will approve it. He should not be so sure. The wind towers are so noticeable and prominently placed that their vision impact is enormous. Mr. Martin’s tone sounds like PSC approval is “inevitable.” (It did not work well for Mrs. Clinton.)

Economically, how much of the $800,000 in annual taxes go to each county and how much to the state? Is the loss in property values and tourism greater than the sum? What is the accumulating over the years loss of eco-tourism to my county (Upshur), and other nearby counties? What is the loss to the Monongahela of reduced tourism? What is the loss in the mid-Atlantic highlands to the critical mass of their attractive image of natural appearance? What is the damage then to other attractions: the trout fishing opportunity, wilderness area use, caves, canoeing, etc. These are all growing uses that are valued more by citizens all the time. This economic loss then increases over time, and it will be clear to all that the $800,000 – some rent and rent taxes, some jobs—does not compensate the area for the eco-tourism economics forgone. Some eco-businesses do now struggle, and instead, a 7- to 11-percent increase per year will go out of business. The loss of property values locally and throughout the region will mean less tax revenue for counties.

There will never be a strictly economic study to capture the full value of natural appearance to the area. “Natural appearance” is the attribute most valued by users of the Monongahela. Elkins, Petersburg, Marlinton, Richwood, Webster Springs, etc., know how much their location contributes to their quality of life. Natural appearing scenic ridges are a characteristic part of it. The economic loss alone due to just the visual intrusion of wind-generating towers is far too great.

I’ll end suggesting that Mr. Martin may be misleading us. I was under the impression that 65 percent of the cost of construction could be recovered from the federal government as a part of the federal wind-power subsidy program. He may in fact be representing developers and industry that want their profits with little concern for the “common good.” WVGEA sounds good, sounds environmental, but he should not be allowed to hi-jack the “green energy” image for his special interest.

Donald C. Gasper


The InterMountain

12 April 2008