The proposed 39-megawatt wind utility Highland County played a central role last week in the statewide debate on the merits of generating power with wind.
About 50 attendees for Virginia Wind Energy Collaborative’s symposium gathered Thursday at the base of a pole 45 feet tall, supported by guy wires and balancing a wind turbine at its highest point on the campus of James Madison University in Harrisonburg. The turbine caught the wind, its tail turned away, and the blade spun effortlessly in the late afternoon sun. Lights brightened on the battery meter below, indicating level of charge. The blades came to a stop a few minutes later as the wind died.
Wind can be strong or weak, consistent or unreliable, sufficient to support wind generation or not. It all depends on location. Local support for wind can also be strong or weak, consistent or unreliable, sufficient or insufficient to support wind generation. It, too, depends on location.
About 200 people from across Virginia converged at JMU for the second annual VWEC symposium on wind energy and their interest in the industry was about the only thing they had in common. Most, but not all, supported wind power development. And not all those in favor were willing to accept wind energy unconditionally.
Those gathered were a fraction compared to the 13,000 who attended a seminar in Houston, Texas, two weeks earlier, but the range of backgrounds were similar, said Jonathan Miles, JMU integrated science and technology professor. Miles, who has for years spearheaded VWEC, is on sabbatical from JMU for one year to work with the Department of Energy on the issue. Attendees represented government agencies, environmental advocacy groups, teachers, lawyers, wind developers, power company executives and media.
With such a diversity of people also comes a diversity of ideas, Miles said during his closing remarks Thursday. But he hopes discourse on wind power, a relatively new technology growing rapidly growing on the East Coast, can be conducted in a civil and courteous manner.
Problems and progress
The symposium had several workshops and a number of open moderated panel discussions. Topics included offshore wind, wildlife impacts, federal mandates for renewable energy, utilities’ commitment to wind in Virginia, incentives for small wind production, and more. Attendees grappled with the issues in question and answer sessions.
The stated purpose of the symposium was to “inform stakeholders and other interested parties about the progress that wind power has made in the region over the last few years.”
Onshore development of wind turbine facilities is not easy, conferees agreed, considering the regulatory, environmental, land use and locality issues that crop up most everywhere the power facilities are proposed.
Offshore wind has problems, too. It is three times more costly to build offshore than onshore. The ocean environment can be much harsher than land and the effect of a wind facility on marine life remains unknown.
Increasingly, mandates for more renewable power are coming from federal and state levels. New laws and regulations call for “green” energy in general, and wind in particular, as part of the energy mix of the future. Big power companies are responding to the challenge by adding renewable energy to their portfolios. State agencies are grappling with ways to regulate the new industry. But with all the push from above, local governments still have the final say on whether wind is developed in their areas.
David Hudgins, director of economic development at Old Dominion Electrical Cooperative, said his cooperative would get its wind power from Pennsylvania. After Highland New Wind Development’s lengthy and controversial permitting process, he wasn’t anxious to take his company through the same experience.
Pennsylvania, many noted, has opened its doors to wind energy, but Virginia is still learning and still deciding if wind power is worth the investment in this state.
Many Highland County residents and landowners oppose HNWD owner Henry T. “Mac” McBride’s plans for 18-30 towers which, if built, will be Virginia’s first such facility. But at the symposium, McBride was often praised for having a pioneering spirit.
The main issues in Highland have boiled down to location: Is it appropriate to put an industrial wind turbine facility on a ridgeline in a sparsely populated corner of the county in an area that harbors rare and endangered species? VWEC does not support indiscriminate siting for wind plants, says VWEC director Don Giecek (he replaced Miles in that position), but information about site suitability is insufficient in Virginia. Giecek says developers have to make their best choices and study environmental effects after construction.
Opponents argue such studies post-construction are too late.
HNWD followed the process to get a permit from the State Corporation Commission, but still faces strong opposition. The SCC set some of the strictest standards for a facility in the United States, but many feel that was not enough. State agencies have said HNWD should strongly consider obtaining a federal habitat conservation plan and incidental take permit for endangered species, but the SCC did not require the company to do so.
At the symposium, environmental enhancement director Michael Murphy of the state Department of Environmental Quality, said the agency will not require many permits for HNWD’s facility.
SCC hearing examiner Alexander Skirpan, who oversaw HNWD’s state permitting process, was a panelist during the wind permitting session. He said SCC’s concern was determining if the wind facility proposal was contrary to the public interest, whether it would interfere with other public utilities, and how environmental impacts would be handled.
Highland County supervisors granted a permit for the project, the SCC followed its process and permitted it as well. Those opposed to the county decision took their complaints to the state Supreme Court and the court ruled in the county’s favor.
VWEC notes federal production tax credits are vital to wind development. Delays in the HNWD project are creating problems in acquiring turbines in time to qualify for credits that appear and disappear at the whim of the Congress. They are set to expire again Dec. 31, 2009, and if HNWD does not have an operating turbine by that point, it cannot take advantage of the hefty tax breaks.
Attorney John Flora, who represents HNWD, complained the process took too long, but opponents and proponents said the first wind company in Virginia had to expect that.
Conferees in general said the Highland experience has cooled the climate statewide to any other proposals. Other localities over the past five years watched Highland’s process closely and some even passed ordinances prohibiting towers over 100 feet (most industrial turbines are now 400 feet or more in height).
Not everybody agrees
The conference workshop on media relations touched on ways to address the varied groups of “stakeholders” in the wind industry. Frank Maisano of Bracewell and Giuliani in New York, a point man for wind energy, including HNWD, recommends open debate where appropriate, but also suggested there was a time and place for lobbying legislators, crafting legislation, meeting with individual groups privately, one on one, to iron out differences. He said making an offer of money to localities in exchange for approval could smooth the way for wind projects in a community. Build a new pool, contribute to the tax base, contribute to a local charity and build good will and take care of a community’s needs, he said.
“We are in the business of doing good projects that will work,” said Maisano. “If there is a wildlife impact, we have to know about it.”
Maisano acknowledged concerns about forest fragmentation and wildlife habitat impacts, and supports public meetings, he said. “The more the better. More is better.”
The industry doesn’t have all the answers, “but people know wind turbines are the only way right now that we can limit global warming,” he said.
He said there are problems with nuclear power plants, new coal plants, and gas-fired plants that wind doesn’t have. “Wind is a really good option right now,” Maisano said. Wind turbines can be put up in nine months; other types of power plants take much longer to install.
Giecek said, “My focus is on education and outreach. Wind power can be a very divisive issue in communities. I don’t think climate change is going anywhere. I think that is one issue that will make sure wind stays on the plate.”
“How do you talk about this issue with people who don’t agree with you?” Maisano asked the group. “Everybody has an opinion. At some point a decision has to be made, supervisors have to vote, SCC issues a permit, opponents decide what to do, and a judge decides who is right and everyone has to live with that decision. That has no impact on whether we all should be able to participate in that process.
“Mac McBride would never do anything that would scar or impact his land in any way that would be harmful,” Maisano added. “Attacks on him are underwhelming. He is trying to do right by the state. It gets to be a divisive issue, an emotional issue. There’s the uncertainty of people not knowing about wind power. Go see a wind turbine, don’t take somebody’s word for it.
“Media tends to focus on controversial issues,” he continued. “In the larger scale of bat and bird kills, though, I am not downplaying it, I think it is a very serious issue, but industry has stepped up to address the issue. Matt (Wasson, an ecologist and conservation director with Appalachian Voices) brings up a point. Energy production has impacts. Wind is going to have some impacts. Wildlife, forest fragmentation. I think you are going to find wind stacks up very well against coal and other industries. People need to hear that larger context. They are focused on their immediate problem, their little snippet of a larger story. That’s not a problem, we need to respect that and have empathy. There’s nothing wrong with broadening that out to see the whole story.
“People will oppose a project if it affects them,” said Maisano. “People like what they like. Not in my backyard. We have to understand that. I don’t think the industry was ready for primetime in the last couple of years. Where they have fallen down is they’ve gone back to Washington to focus on policy. They aren’t concentrating on siting challenges.”
“Opponents are concerned about climate change, too,” said David Carr of the Southern Environmental Law Center. His concern was public lands and national forest. “Rick Webb and Dan Boone are concerned about climate change. It is a siting issue.” Webb and Boone created a web site, www.vawind.org, to present arguments for proper siting.
“I am clear about that,” Maisano replied. “There are other sites that are better. The reality is that everywhere there is a wind project Boone and Webb are against it. The Highland site is the best I’ve ever seen. No trees, lots of wind, transmission lines. In the wash you are going to find those better sites are the first ones that develop. As bigger players get involved you are going to see people making decisions based on facts and data. They won’t develop on poor sites if they can’t make money or it makes a negative impact.”
He said each project had to be considered on its individual merits. “We can’t take (HNWD’s) project and overlay it with the Shenandoah project; they are different,” said Maisano.
“It is important to acknowledge groups that are working to reduce sprawl,” said Giecek. “They are working toward responsible stewardship. As we consider global warming as a whole, we need everybody working together in all these different matters. I feel like having worked in the climate community for a few years, the climate community has more embraced wind power as a core element to reduce carbon emissions and global warming.”
“We have had a massive increase in wind power,” added Maisano. “They are doing as much as they can in North Dakota. That wind will never get here. We have to have offshore as an option. It’s not an option now because of cost. We have to do responsible development on these ridges. Pennsylvania has thrown out the welcome mat. They have created a tax structure that is perhaps too generous.”
“In Highland County you get misinformation,” said Wasson. “People can do a Google search and get wind turbine syndrome information from some crackpot in Texas.”
“(Land) sales in Tucker County (site of a West Virginia wind facility) are brisk,” said Maisano, countering an argument he’s seen that land values suffer when wind turbines are located nearby.
He said he treats the media the same as he treats individuals. “Industry people would say screw the media,” said Maisano. “Media would talk to someone who would talk to them. Industry leaves media out of it by going to local officials. That turns off the local official who is listening to people in his community. You’ve got to work both sides of that line as aggressively as the other.”
One person challenged Maisano on his assertion concerning bat kills at the 44-turbine site in Tucker County, W.Va. “Four thousand bats were killed,” she said.
“Those bat kills were unknown,” said Maisano. “That issue is being dealt with. Go to www.batsandwind.org (for more information) … What happens in these debates is someone uses a charged term, very narrow. The industry has been a huge participant in bat kill studies.
“You can do all the preconstruction studies you want to do,” he continued. “But you don’t know what you don’t know, but now we know and (we are doing something about it). Until you get those turbines up and running, then you get the good information. The significant thing with State Corporation Commission action is they have outlined a post construction protocol for action to see what happens, you have to follow those requirements.
“One of the downsides of bringing bigger players in, money is a factor, what it is going to do is raise a specter of concern that we in the community need to ask more serious questions,” said Maisano.
“It is a challenge for communities to make sure they are heard,” said Giecek. “And require industry to listen to them.”
“No one is going to make local communities do something. In the case of Highland County, it was the board of supervisors who went for the special use permit,” said Maisano. “These projects aren’t going to fly just because someone wants to come in and do it. Is forest service going to run over Shenandoah County? I doubt it.”
Carr said there is a concern the forest service supports wind, and while a county has input, it has the potential to get overrun.
“The county doesn’t say what happens to wilderness,” said Giecek. “We like to get resolutions from each board of supervisors in each county, in order to get wilderness passed, county doesn’t decide wilderness.”
“With public land processes, rarely have I seen the government run over local concerns,” said Maisano.
“Public hearings are failures for how divisive they have been,” said Wasson. “We’ve had some success stories; Texas turbines were turned off during bird migrations following public hearings.”
“The Highland project has built-in post-construction studies,” said Maisano. “As the industry moves from project to project they learn things.”
One person said the areas under consideration for wind turbine siting in the George Washington National Forest were ruled out by the VWEC.
“That is not accurate,” Giecek replied. “When it was first studied it was characterized as flag, an area of concern. Subsequent analysis reported it as unsuitable. Both did not report it as unsuitable.”
“I don’t think anybody knows the details, we need to put meteorological towers up and see what the data is,” said Maisano. “I urged people last night (at a public hearing in Winchester) not to jump to conclusions. We know there is a site that has some concerns, we know it is a good site for wind.”
Maisano said public debate begins much earlier with reporters than with the general public. “If you don’t have a lot of details, you can’t tell people information you don’t know,” he said. “You have to tell reporters this is very early in the process, we are not going to know until we get good data.
“If you are saying that four years down the road, that’s not going to hold; if you are moving forward with the project you ought to (say so).”
Another person asked about transparency in wind turbine development. “A lot of people are developing community boards in the process,” said Maisano. “Perceptions have already taken root, however. The only way you can truly affect transparency is to involve the community.”
20 percent wind by 2030
“In 2006, President Bush emphasized the nation’s need for greater energy efficiency,” said Bonnie Ram of the environmental science and policy program branch of Energetics Inc. The 20 percent wind by 2030 mandate study was part of that initial push, said Ram, who was also a lead editor, coordinator, and chapter author and technical advisor to the Department of Energy-sponsored study. “There are major challenges,” she said. She included transmission system, larger electric load balancing areas in tandem with better regional planning, capital costs and technology advancements, and addressing potential concerns about local siting and environmental issues as a few of the concerns facing the wind industry.
Ram said wind power would benefit the United States by adding energy security through diversification of power sources. The wind industry would employ American workers and enhance local economies. It also avoids air pollution and saves water (used in hydroelectric and nuclear power plants), she said.
Debra Jacobson, a professional lecturer on energy law at George Washington School of Law, said wind power had zero emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. “Fossil fuel has substantial emissions of air pollutants,” she added.
Offshore wind too expensive
“There is no plan for offshore wind project in Virginia that I am aware of,” said George Hagerman of the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium.
But there are feasibility studies under way. “There are class 5 winds in the Blue Ridge and off the coast,” said Hagerman. “There are class five winds in federal waters beyond the three nautical mile limit of state jurisdiction and class 6 winds within 10-15 miles of the shoreline and close to major, growing center of power demand centered on Hampton, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach.” The larger the number, the stronger the winds. Class six winds maintain speeds of 17-20 miles per hour. In general, winds below class 4 (15.7-16.8 mph) are not useful in generating wind power with large turbines.
Virginia imports around 29 percent of its electricity. If no new local sources of energy are found, Virginia will import 42 percent of its electricity by 2016.
Hagerman recommended those considering wind projects meet individually with stakeholders to air fears and concerns so as not to have a public debate.
Emil Avram, senior business development manager of Dominion Power said, “We recognize there are wind resources offshore but until onshore resources are depleted, offshore costs 2-3 times more, it might start to become more competitive as onshore resources are depleted or become unavailable.”
Wind is better offshore, but it is nowhere near the better resource for the increased costs, 2 megawatts at $2 million installed onshore; offshore, $4-6 million. Offshore wind is popular in Europe because the country running out of land. But offshore is expensive. “Until research is done and we run out of land, I don’t see it as a long-term solution for adding renewables for Virginia or the rest of the country,” said Jay Godfrey of Appalachian Power.
Wildlife impacts complex
Chris Burkett, a wildlife action plan coordinator the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said, “As our climate warms, species will move to higher elevations and latitudes. Species that are mobile and can tolerate a broad range of conditions will have an evolutionary advantage. If a species cannot move far enough quickly enough, or if it cannot find suitable habitat, then it will perish.
“As climate changes in the next hundred years, alligators will expand into Virginia, and the snowshoe hare will be extirpated (destroyed completely), though it will continue to exist elsewhere,” he predicted.
He described the effect on climate change on wildlife migration patterns. Virginia is migrating ground for ducks, specifically the Chesapeake Bay. But ducks go to the Great Plains in the summer. “Warmer winters means there is less water in the ponds. Milder winters also mean the ducks don’t have to travel as far to find water habitats, they don’t have to go to Virginia. Marsh habitats in Virginia are not what they used to be, as waters rise they will be inundated and not replaced.
What does this mean for Virginia? A loss in hunting sports. The canvasback duck is declining in Virginia, said Burkett. It’s a matter of economics – migratory bird hunters spend more than $16 million a year in Virginia, support more than 600 jobs and contributes more than $3 million in state and local taxes. “Climate change will force us to manage wildlife in new ways, efforts will be much more difficult and expensive to implement and new challenges will occur at a time when we will have less ability to respond,” Burkett added.
“Bat fatalities appear to be highest in or near forests and along ridge tops,” he said, quoting the Virginia Wind flyer. “This is a fallacy. Not all bats are the same, not all birds are the same. No endangered species of bats have been found or reported killed at a wind farm in the continental United States, according to Bat Conservation International.”
John Flora, attorney for HNWD, has represented the McBride family for 20 years and HNWD since its inception in 2002. Flora described the HNWD project as being in a 100-year-old pasture. “Red Oak is a clear knob,” he said. “Tamarack is pasture, but a traditional ridge line.” He said the turbines will not exceed 400 feet in height and would require very little tree cutting to put in.
“We slowly eliminated the northern flying squirrel as an issue, (and) water shrews, brook and brown trout, rock voles. Bats is what it is really about … The SCC said it was not necessary to have a habitat conservation plan or to seek an incidental take permit. The bald eagle has been delisted (as an endangered species) … The monitoring requirements are robust and one of the most expensive in the U.S. daily fatality searches from April 1-Oct. 30, facility open to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. We’ll monitor for three years until it is determined it is not necessary anymore.”
Flora talked about mitigation. “We’ll do curtailment or ‘feathering’ for bats,” he said. “That would likely be during the fall migration. We’ll do testing. We’ll look at deterrent technology like the ‘bat blaster.” It keeps them away from the wind farm. These are not endangered bats we are talking about. Nobody knows how many of these there are, no one knows if they are biologically significant.
“My client hopes monitoring doesn’t last forever. Monitoring will cost $150,000 per year for first three years, and the higher of $100,000 or 1.75 percent of the prior year’s total revenues for the balance of the project life, if necessary,” he said.
“It’s really about view shed, but opponents use wildlife to slow things down,” Flora argued. “Permitting takes way too long. Pre-construction wildlife and other studies are too expensive and provide limited useful information. Virginia, the United States, and the world need renewable energy now, not five years from now.”
Giecek said, “Compare other states with the HNWD project. If things go well and monitoring is done as it should occur, we could have one of the greener projects in the country. The developer will work with the state to ensure monitoring. We should have a very clean and green project with respect to wildlife.”
“We are hopeful wind turbines will go up in 2009; we have all the permits,” Flora said. But turbine equipment is hard to find for smaller developers, he explained. “The county restricted us to 22 turbines; it will probably be 15.”
Answering a question from a person about a project proposed for the George Washington National Forest in the Shenandoah Valley for 131 turbines, Wasson replied, “We are not supportive of wind development on public lands … My criticisms on the Virginia Wind handout is, the evidence isn’t there. I don’t think the wildlife argument will be a strong one to oppose wind development on public lands.”
“One of my frustrations in Virginia – there was no agency advocating renewable energy,” said Flora. “Every agency had a specific focus, history, structures – I couldn’t find anyone who would represent the wind industry on balance. Who is going to step up and say we need to do these things?
“McBride is doing it to preserve his land, he needs a revenue source,” said Flora. “You can sell the power for 20 years in a power purchase agreement, the turbines will last another 10-15, (and) they can be refurbished.”
Energy independence a Virginia goal
Steve Walz, the governor’s energy policy advisor, said the first goal in the Virginia energy plan is to move the state toward energy independence “That means energy efficiency and conservation,” he said. During the 10-year term of the plan, it calls for increasing indigenous sources by 20 percent with emphasis on renewables.
Avram is responsible for wind energy projects. He worked on the 264-megawatt facility in West Virginia, and is leading efforts to develop wind projects in Virginia. “We are in a strong program to build 4,000 MW of new generation wind,” said Avram. “It is going to be a part of that goal next 10 years. Dominion is committed to achieving Virginia’s voluntary goal.”
Dominion covers North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia. It has 26,500 megawatts of capacity and 757 megawatts of wind in development with 1,290 MW of resources currently from wind.
Why wind? “It’s the lowest cost and highest scalability,” said Avram. “We are committed to meet Renewable Portfolio Standards goals in Virginia and North Carolina, reduce our carbon intensity, and hedge against rising fuel costs. There is a growing need to add resources that don’t use fossil fuels.”
But the location of the best wind resources is often far away from the demand for that energy. “There’s a low correlation of demand with wind,” said Avram. “Most wind resources are in the Midwest, but that is where the least demand is.”
Dominion is partnered with Shell on its wind facility, which has 65 turbines operating, said Avram. Both phases of the project will be operational in 2008 with 264 megawatts of electricity flowing into the Washington metropolitan area. “It’s a great asset,” said Avram.
“We are evaluating several Virginia opportunities,” said Avram. “The West Virginia wind experience is readily exportable to Virginia wind development. We are in the early stages of site analysis. Virginia RPS compliance options as written by law are utilize existing utility-owned renewable assets, develop and construct new utility-owned renewable facilities, or purchase renewable energy from the market. Dominion’s existing utility-owned renewable assets are 2 percent. We have to achieve 4 percent by 2010, 7 by 2016, and 12 percent by 2022. We need to look at all options: nuclear, coal sequestration, renewable, and efficiency. The only renewable available today is wind; it is ready to go. We need all components of it. Wind energy will be a major contributor.”
Jay Godfrey of Appalachian Power, managing director of renewable energy, said his company services Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. He explained that in the RPS systems in use, wind and solar count double in meeting the goal of 12 percent. “Renewables provide some hedge value,” he said. “Wind is typically the cheapest method to add new renewables to the portolio in the United States.”
A goal of Appalachian Power is sustainability and environmental stewardship. “Renewables are in the public interest,” said Godfrey. “RPS legislation in Virginia makes renewables public policy. The commonwealth established that costs could be recovered in rates. Wind represents a great opportunity to supply energy and reduce carbon emissions.
“The cost of new generation is going up,” he added. “Wind is still generally the cheapest renewable, but turbine shortages and commodity cost increases have combined to cause cost increases for wind, too … Virginia has some wind resources, but land use issues and transmission will ultimately determine success of (projects).”
David Hudgins of Old Dominion Electric Cooperative said the coop partnered with Delmarva on a 150 megawatt wind project in Pennsyvlania. “We’re in final site selection,” he said. It’s a 15,000-acre project. “One knock on wind is the amount of acreage involved,” Hudgins said. “These wind projects are huge in land consumption.”
Hudgins explained that since Highland County started the per- mitting process for wind five years ago, other counties in the area passed ordinances allowing no structures over 100 feet in height.
“We will have to as a society say wind is good,” said Hudgins. “In other states they attract investment and are tourist attractions. In Virginia, they are not well received. One county told me, ‘You’re not putting wind turbines in my county, we are passing a height restriction.’ Wind is not a panacea,” Hudgins said. “You run 10 days out of a month. Usage averages 35 percent. It is a public policy, it is a goal, but who is going to pay for assets sitting there idle 65 percent of the time? It is us,” said Hudgins.
“At the same conference on Monday, a delegate told me he is getting calls from retired senior citizens, everything is going up in prices, the cost of energy is rising exponentially. There’s a rural area concern, farmers have a hard time paying for all the costs. We didn’t feel we wanted to go through the same pain and anguish that Highland County went through; that’s why we went to Pennsylvania.
Wasson said the increase in power costs was not due to wind power, but increases in coal costs.
Avram said, “One key component, capacity factor typical of a wind farm, you can predict the next day’s wind resource with 80-90 percent accuracy. If you can schedule into the day to day market, you can plan generation for all utilities the next day. We recognize it is intermittent, but we can factor that in.
What is the role of DEQ and SCC in wind permitting?
Skirpan, who joined the SCC in November 1997, said the views he expressed as a panelist on wind permitting at the symposium were his own and not those of the SCC. “We are administrative law judges,” he said. “I function as a judge on behalf of the commissioners.”
The job of the SCC is to look at businesses, such as wind utilities, and determine if they would be contrary to the public interest, interfere with other public utilities or have adverse environmental impacts.
“A forum for those issues is raised by the Department of Environmental Quality,” Skirpan noted. “There is a provision in SCC rules to avoid duplication. The process is designed to provide for due process for all interested parties – developers and the public. We are required to have public hearings in the locality to get the public involved.”
The process to get an SCC permit is first to file an application, then it becomes a formal proceeding and a timeline begins. “The timeline depends on what is in the application,” said Skirpan. “What is the public interest? Is there any opposition? How organized is it? We will give due process to everyone. We provide for discovery, which can be extensive at times. Standards are, we will compel discovery for something that couldn’t (normally) be admitted but leads to admittance of evidence. We have fairly broad pre-trial depositions for people to say what they are going to say before they say it.”
Murphy, DEQ director of environmental enhancement, said DEQ sends applications to other agencies. “VDOT plays a big role. Developers always need a road to get in and out of the facility. We try to accomplish the review in a 60-day timeframe and report back to the SCC, if everything is going well. We also give them recommendations from agencies. Where things can go bad is where the application is incomplete. The process allows DEQ to notify SCC staff of the problem and they get more information.
“For wind projects there are very few environmental permits required,” said Murphy. “I don’t believe there were any required (for the HNWD project), with the exception of a sediment control plan. No state permits, probably won’t be ever unless a long transmission line is required. Transmission lines are where you have permit requirements. Wind turbines have no air emissions, no wetland is affected, no water impact. Most of the siting decisions in Virginia are local government decisions.
“By the time we see it the local government has looked at it,” said Murphy. “That takes siting issues out of play for agencies. Can we make it work on that site is the only question that remains.”
Closing remarks begin dialog anew
“It is critical that all of us here work together,” said Giecek in closing remarks on the second day of the symposium. “You go into a community with a proposal requires that you listen. Make sure you listen to their needs, what they need in that community. In Virginia and Appalachia, the more we listen to the needs of the people in that community the more we will be welcomed to talk about wind. Do they need jobs, broadband? There are a lot of things. This is the critical core challenge for wind power today.
“We are a state that has its work cut out for it and has resources,” said Miles. “The good news is we have a very viable wind resource. VWEC under Giecek has broadened its mission – it is engaging key stakeholder group in the commonwealth. The program is designed to dramatically increase use of wind power in the United States, to establish resources for American farmers, to provide clean sources of electricity, economical development and carry out a mission that is respectful of all other points of view. We embrace and aspire to that goal. We listen, we learn, we act, we evaluate. You’ve seen some of the results of this.”
By James Jacenich
26 June 2008
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