The Pendleton County Commission heard varying comments from landowners concerning a proposed wind energy facility during a public hearing Tuesday. It is suggested that the site be located in Rockingham County, Virginia, and Pendleton County, between Camp Run Road and Rough Run Road.
The area on Cow Knob is five miles of privately owned land surrounded by the National Forest.
County Commissioner Gene McConnell emphasized that the Public Service Commission, not the County Commission, has control over the wind turbine project.
“Our role is to give the citizens the best information available,” McConnell told the group of more than 80 local and Virginia landowners and Bill Rogers, a representative of Solaya Energy LLC, of Wilmington, Massachusetts.
The County Commission plans to appoint a local committee comprised of members representing all segments of county life to develop an ordinance regulating any wind energy facilities, McConnell said.
Dan Smith, representing the Cow Knob landowners, introduced Cow Knob Wind (CNW) as an entity comprised of 15 adjoining Shenandoah Mountain-area landowner groups and a five-member board of directors which selected Solaya Energy LLC as the developer.
CNW is exploring the utilization of the natural resource of the wind on top of the mountain, how to harness it and help the country which is currently in an energy crunch, Smith said.
The land, homesteaded in 1862 by the Turner family, is largely still owned by Turner descendants.
“Each of these landowners desire the assurance that their property will continue to be handed down through many generations for them to use and enjoy the land as they have for many years,” said Smith, who married into the family 28 years ago.
The CNW board and Solaya, which work closely together, came to Pendleton County to ask for some project guidelines and regulations such as the recent ordinance passed unanimously by the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors, Smith said.
Several Cow Knob landowners spoke indicating they don’t want to destroy the land, but maintain its integrity.
“We hope wind can contribute to land, help the country and reduce dependency on foreign powers. A wind power ordinance in Pendleton County is important so we know we’re doing the job responsibly and well for everyone.” one owner said.
Bill Rogers, representing Solaya, said he was honored to work with Pendleton and Rockingham counties on such a “neat spot,” which is unique, readily acceptable for wind energy, cleared and farmed for years and surrounded by National Forest. He surmised the closest house was two to four miles away.
Solaya Energy has no specific development plans so far, but is requesting guidelines from Pendleton County, said Rogers who has had three meteorological towers measuring the wind for the past three years. Solaya Energy has partnered with James Madison University to evaluate the wind resources.
“We want to do it right,” Rogers said.
Letters and comments from Pendleton County landowners were all in opposition to the wind energy project.
Dave Hardy couldn’t believe anyone would desecrate Shenandoah Mountain.
Charles Bates said the project was for financial gain.
“It’s an unreliable and dead-end power only made possible by government subsidies and grants, money taken from the people. The developers will deposit the only green part of this whole wretched fraud,” said Bates, who added “our children and grandchildren will be paying for this scam.”
Art Hooten asked why the wind turbine projects keep being proposed.
“The answer is a combination of money, an ill-informed public and spineless politicians. The wind industry, at taxpayer and electric ratepayer expense, gets all manner of subsidies, tax breaks, cash grants and stimulus money because people believe it will save us from carbon overload in the atmosphere,” Hooten said.
Larry Thomas, president of Allegheny Highlands Alliance and The Friends of Beautiful Pendleton County, said he has read numerous studies by independent experts and has “unequivocally concluded wind power doesn’t do what it is advertised to do and does not belong sited on the mountain tops of Pendleton County and, for that matter, on any of the mountain tops in the Eastern United States.”
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