Two companies are exploring the possibility of building wind turbines on top of Wills Ridge in Floyd County. Representatives from both Horizon Wind Energy and Nordex have been talking to the landowners. A third company, Invenergy, which is also involved in the Poor Mountain project in Roanoke County, already has a temporary tower, measuring wind velocity and direction, in place near the intersection of Kyle Weeks Road and Union School Road in Floyd County.
Horizon Wind Energy LLC of Houston, Texas has constructed wind farms throughout North America, according to its website. The company is owned by EDP Renewables, based in Portugal. Nordex’s offices are located in Germany.
Larry Spangler, who lives on Ridgeview Road in Floyd, said he has been approached by Horizon with an agreement for property he and his brother own on Wills Ridge. A Nordex representative just stopped by and left a pamphlet, he remarked. Spangler said Horizon is interested in leasing the property. “They’re wanting to pay for the whole place, so much per acre (leasing)….I don’t feel like I’m going to sign anything that would lease my whole place…. If they want a strip across the top, that’s one thing, but the rest of my land is not going to be tied up.”
He added, “I don’t particularly want to see windmills up there, but it’s probably going to come some day.”
Marie Daniel said her brother Lowell Boothe had received a letter, dated June 22, from Horizon. The two, who also have homes on Ridgeview Road, own family property together on the proposed path desired by Horizon.
Daniel said she is among the landowners attending an invitation only meeting in Floyd tonight (July 14). “I am opposed to it before going to the meeting.” She said her objections relate to sight and sound. “Wills Ridge, the scenic beauty of it – I can’t imagine anything being built on it.” She also believes “noise is the big issue….Blades collect the wind to run the turbines, and the turbines are loud.” She added, “I think wind energy is clean. Rather than leveling off mountains (for) coal…wind would be a good thing. But so many people live on Wills Ridge….”
According to information given to the landowners, Daniel said, Horizon is looking at putting up 10-12 towers on the Ridge. Tower height can be 210-330 feet high, and with blades height of the towers rises up to 340-495 feet. “They would clear cut a square acre per tower.”
Since Floyd County does not have a zoning ordinance, proposed wind farms would not be subject to approval by the Floyd County Board of Supervisors, and a public hearing would not be required.
Floyd County administrator Dan Campbell said Tuesday developers of any possible wind farm projects in the county would have to secure an erosion/sediment control permit, and get needed approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, along with securing building permits from the county for their structures.
Campbell said a wind institute study at James Madison University several years ago, had scored several sites across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Offshore projects were the highest ranked. Campbell said several sites in Floyd County were mentioned that were “perhaps moderate in scale,” but that would possibly lend themselves to a commercial grade facility. One of the ones on the low end of viability was along Wills Ridge, he said. Another was in the vicinity of Black Ridge, near where the Invenergy tower is located.
Remy Luerssen of JMU’s wind institute said altogether four test towers were put up in Floyd County from February 1, 2003 through January 31, 2004. In Wills Ridge the monitoring equipment was installed on private land at an elevation of 3,100 feet. Average annual wind speed at that location was 12.92 miles per hour. The month with the greatest wind resource was January; the month with the least wind resource was August.
Billy Weitzenfeld of the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals (AECP), based in Floyd, said, “My personal opinion…with no disrespect to anyone who may not want one in their backyard is I think we have to move forward with renewable energies.” But, Weitzenfeld, added, he thinks the wind companies “that come in need to be on the up and up and honestly inform the people to be affected…be sensitive to the people’s concerns. If everyone gets accurate information, then I think whatever decision is made is the right decision.”
Weitzenfeld said there is more interest in putting wind turbines in Virginia now than in the past. He explained that technology has improved to the point that less wind speed is feasible. The changes in technology now have companies looking at Virginia and other places with marginal wind speed. “The capacity of wind generated electricity has surpassed nuclear power so the industry is looking for places to put these turbines.”
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is also advocating the development of offshore wind resources. Offshore, Weitzenfeld said, the wind is better, and “you’re not dealing with the impact of having it in someone’s backyard.” Wind energy farms off the coast would have to navigate through such other challenges as the military presence, shipping lanes and the commercial fishing industry there.
In wind energy, wind turbines convert kinetic energy into mechanical power, and proximity to a power station becomes an important consideration in choosing a location for a wind farm. In Wills Ridge, one resident pointed out that the Appalachian Power station on Route 8 is nearby.
Daniels said a Horizon representative told her it would be a five-year process to get a wind farm in place.
A packet of information, given to landowners from Horizon, also stated:
* “Horizon works with landowners who are interested in long-term business relationships. There are two phases to these relationships: the option phase and the lease phase. During the option phase, Horizon has the flexibility to execute the lease once the project is ready to be constructed. The option phase usually lasts approximately five to seven years and gives Horizon the time needed to measure the wind, secure access to transmission and obtain permits. In some cases an extended option phase is necessary due to regulatory variations of the state or federal level or slower growth of the wind energy market in the region.
“During the lease phase, Horizon has the exclusive right to develop construct and operate a wind farm on the property. Lease terms range from 30 to 50 years and include escalating royalty schedules as well as crop and property damage provisions.”
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