High winds are hard to come by in Bath County. County planner Sherry Ryder reviewed maps at the Virginia Wind Energy Symposium last week in Harrisonburg, and learned most of the high-wind areas in Bath County are currently unavailable for commercial electric wind plants.
Following a discussion on cell towers and height limits, commission chairman Mike Grist asked what would happen if someone put up a 60-foot tower and then placed a wind turbine on it.
Ryder said that would likely be permitted, particularly as an accessory use in an agricultural zone. She said several localities have placed height limits on structures at 100 feet that “knock the turbines out of the water.”
Ryder attended the symposium June 18-19 at James Madison University (see related story this issue). She presented maps to the commission indicating where high winds – labeled as level three, four, five or six – are found in Bath.
Most of the areas, she said, are either federal land like national forest; property protected by The Nature Conservancy; or land protected by conservation easements. Those tracts, she said, are currently not available for wind turbines.
There is one area in the northern portion of the county, Ryder said, that is privately owned and has level three and four winds on it. The area is just south of Bolar off Route 694 east of U.S. 220. She told the commission Dominion Virginia Power has called twice asking for maps of its property in the area of the pumped storage station, but there are no level three through six winds there.
Grist said he would like to be kept up to date on whether federal land will be opened up for wind or solar projects.
Ryder said with federal mandates to increase alternative energy production by 2020, depending on the size of a project the State Corporation Commission could expedite certain ones.
Ryder has signed the commission up for a wind energy tour in the fall, and believes such a tour will be beneficial. “There is a lot of potential for what they will provide us,” she said.
Grist handed out photos and articles concerning a wind utility in New York that currently has 121 turbines and is expected to have 400 when complete. He was able to get to within about 100 feet of the turbines and could not hear them over the passing traffic. “This is a precursor to information we will have to digest as time goes on,” he said.
By Mike Bollinger
26 June 2008