KEYSER – Although the topic was not on the agenda, the Mineral County Commissioners Tuesday voted to amend their agenda to allow for some additional questions they had on the topic of decommissioning wind farms.
The commissioners heard from representatives of both U.S. Wind Force and the Allegheny Front Alliance during their Oct. 12 meeting, and although David Friend and Jim Cookman of Wind Force asked them to approve the choice of G.L. Garrad Hassan, a renewable energy consultant firm, to perform the required decommissioning study on the farm, the commissioners agreed to hold off until they could obtain additional information on Hassan and any other firm that might be interested.
The study, required by the West Virginia Public Service Commission as part of its permitting process, is designed to determine the cost of decommissioning, or dismantling, a wind farm after it has exceeded its useful life. That money is then set aside as a means of ensuring that the useless turbines are not abandoned with no means of funding their removal.
Tuesday, with a copy of the document in hand, Commissioner Janice LaRue questioned Friend about several aspects of a decommissioning plan which Hassan had created for another wind farm.
One of her concerns was whether the roads into the farm would be included in the reclamation plan for the property. According to Friend, “some of the roads would likely stay.” He noted that one road in particular will provide access to the Allegheny Power
switchway, which Wind Force will build as part of the project and then turn over to the power company, and it would remain there to allow access to the electric company’s equipment even after the wind farm has closed down.
“What happens if they don’t take care of it?” LaRue asked, to which Friend replied, “Then you can take it up with them.”
LaRue also asked about the general time frame for decommissioning, and Friend noted that it is “generally about 18 months to two years.”
He also noted, however, that , as parts of the wind turbines outlive their usefulness, they are often replaced or repaired and to make the assumption that the wind farm will automatically close down once it has been there for the estimated 20-year lifespan is presumptuous.
“The entire set of turbines could be replaced as technology improves,” he said.
Reading from the document for the other wind farm, LaRue noted that “Garrad Hassan recommends inspection as the farm approaches its 20-year life and every year after.”
Before ending the question-and-answer session, Friend again assured the commissioners that they really have no liability in the issue.
“It’s a private facility. You have no obligation to operate, maintain, or decommission it,” he said.
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