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Officials hear wind farm proposal

KEYSER, W.Va. – The 23 wind turbines proposed for placement in the Pinnacle area of Mineral County would generate approximately $373,000 in annual tax revenue for the county, according to U.S. Windforce representative Jim Cookman.

Of that amount, Cookman, who is the vice president for project development with U.S. Windforce of Wexford, Pa., estimated that approximately $107,000 would go to the county and $265,000 would go to the county school system.

Cookman and Dave Friend, vice president for sales and marketing for Windforce, presented a PowerPoint program on the proposed wind farm to be located on Green Mountain to the Mineral County Development Authority Tuesday morning.

Calling the proposed wind farm “an opportunity for a $120 million investment in Mineral County,” Cookman said the wind farm would also benefit the county by bringing in jobs – construction jobs at first, then permanent maintenance jobs and any ancillary jobs that might be needed, such as engineering services, maintenance and other support services.

Most of them, he said, “would be good living-wage jobs.”

Cookman also said the establishment of a wind farm in Mineral County would help provide “a clean, renewable source of energy.

Cookman and Friend explained that U.S. Windforce develops the wind farms, secures the land, obtains the rights of way and leases and applies for all the necessary permits, while Edison Emission Energy will actually acquire the turbines, have them assembled and operate the project.

According to Cookman, U.S. Windforce is currently scheduled to make application for their permit from the West Virginia Public Service Commission in September. They should then have permit in hand, he said, by May 2009.

With a possible groundbreaking in July 2009, he said operation could begin as early as May 2010.

A number of studies must be completed throughout the process. Some have been under way for awhile, he said.

“We’ve been collecting wind data at this site since 2003,” Cookman said, noting that other tests include studies on the effects on the viewshed, wetlands and cultural resources.

“We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on noise studies alone, so we can understand who might be impacted,” he said.

Cookman told the authority members he would like their support when the time comes to submit the application for the necessary permits.

He admitted that wind farms are not going to be the sole savior of an energy-hungry economy.

“The energy crisis we’re in is certainly not going to be solved by this one technology,” he said. “Wind energy is not the answer, but it’s certainly an important piece of the answer.”

Liz Beavers

Cumberland Times-News

16 July 2008