Highland New Wind Development (HNWD), developer of the proposed 20-turbine ridgeline wind project in Highland County, Virginia, has taken its search for investors to extremes, posting a website entitled: “The Greenest Windfarm in the World.”
The website (www.highlandnewwind.com) describes the proposed project as the “first electric generation facility of any type, anywhere to be required under its state permit to perform daily surveys for bird and bat mortality for the life of the project.”
This greenest-of-all posturing puts a new spin on the permit conditions imposed by the State Corporation Commission (SCC). The same conditions were earlier decried by HNWD’s lawyer, John Flora, who complained to the SCC that such permit conditions would “scare away investors.” Similarly, wind industry spokesperson, Frank Maisano, was quoted in a news article stating that the SCC conditions “could threaten the viability of the project.”
Although potential investors will want to know why the SCC imposed precedent-setting wildlife monitoring conditions on the project, this critical information is missing from the HNWD website. Most of the extensive record, however, including expert reports and testimony submitted to the SCC, is provided here on the Virginia Wind website. (www.VaWind.org)
Most significantly, nighttime radar studies of birds and bats flying over the turbine sites led the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to conclude that the project could lead to the highest mortality of birds and bats among wind projects in the east. Due to the presence of endangered bat species, as well as golden and bald eagles, both the state wildlife agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended that the developer prepare a Habitat Conservation Plan and obtain an Incidental Take Permit as provided by the Endangered Species Act. The developer has not done so, and both the developer and the Highland County supervisors have been served a notice of intent to sue if the project goes forward without the permit.
The HNWD website further fails to reasonably describe the area in which the project would be located, representing it as “not wilderness.” In fact, the project would be built in the Laurel Fork watershed, one of the most remote, undisturbed, and ecologically unique areas in Virginia.
Additional information on the website concerns the developer’s June trip to the Windpower 2008 conference in Texas. HNWD’s attorney had previously advised the Highland supervisors that they hoped to report that investors had been obtained when they returned. Instead it was reported that no investment partners had been found among the over 13,000 conference attendees, and that HNWD was now expanding its search.
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