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Dominion still rolling around ideas for wind farm

BLUEFIELD, Va. – Crews with Dominion continue to monitor and collect wind data from East River Mountain, company officials said Monday.

“The Bluestone River Wind Farm remains a long-term project for Dominion,” Ryan Frazier, a spokesman for Dominion, said Monday in response to questions by the Daily Telegraph regarding the status of a proposed wind farm for East River Mountain. “We continue to gather wind data and secure land leases on and near East River Mountain.”

Dominion and BP jointly purchased a 2,600-acre tract of land on East River Mountain in 2008 with a vision of developing a large-scale wind farm near Bluefield, Va. BP later withdrew from the project with Dominion acquiring full ownership of the land. However, the project was stalled in early 2010 after a ridgeline protection ordinance was adopted by the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors.

The ordinance basically prohibits the construction of tall structures on certain protected ridgelines, including East River Mountain. Since that time many have wondered if the project will proceed.

However, Frazier said Dominion continues to monitor and collect wind data on East River Mountain.

While an appellate board was established by the county to hear challenges to the tall structure ordinance, Frazier said the company has no plans at this time to appear before the appellate board.

Charlie Stacy, the incoming Eastern District member of the county Board of Supervisors, said he isn’t surprised to hear that Dominion is holding on to the 2,600 acres of land.

“What that would tell me is they have hopes still that they can get the climate changed legislatively for that project to go forward,” Stacy, who campaigned against wind turbines and in support of the ridgeline ordinance, said. “Dominion is very, very powerful in Richmond, and they have other legislative avenues to pursue in Richmond to try to deal with this ordinance. But my goal when I get on this board is we will do everything we can to uphold if not strengthen our community’s desire not to have a large wind farm.”

Stacy said the make-up of the new board, which will be seated Jan. 1, appears to be 3-1, and possibly 4-1, in support of retaining the existing ridgeline protection ordinance.

“What I’ll be able to do as a member of the board is utilize (County Attorney) Eric Young and make sure we’ve looked at every means to deal with the commercial wind issue,” Stacy said. “Until that property changes ownership, that threat (of a wind farm) doesn’t change.”

Company officials had previously indicated the wind farm would generate an estimated $10 million in new revenue for Tazewell County over the next 20 years, including an additional $10 million in local products and services.