Neighbors turned out to see the specs and hear about the Rocky Forge Wind Farm proposed for the North Mountain property north of Eagle Rock off Dagger Springs Road.
When doors opened for the meeting at Eagle Rock Elementary School on Wednesday, Dec. 9, some 30 cars were in the parking lot and folks filtered in to look at description boards, hear the news of proposed economic impact and to get an idea of what a wind farm might do to the area.
APEX Energy, responsible for the project, said 70 people attended the open house and asked interesting and valuable questions about the project.
APEX employees presented talking points. For the proposed 25 windmills on the Fraley property, Charlie Johnson, the project manager, said, “$4.5 million per year in economic benefit in taxes and jobs and other benefits is expected.” The proposed wind farm is expected to bring in about 130 jobs.
APEX had superimposed windmills on various mountain vista photos so the public could get an idea what the view would be like from various sites. The greatest sight impact would be along Dagger Springs Road.
From Eagle Rock Elementary School, the tree-lined campus would have no impact in direct view. But from the end of the road, Eagle’s Nest at U.S. 220 North and South, the windmills would be seen in the distance, according to the photos.
APEX has applied for a special exceptions permit that will be presented to the Botetourt Planning Commission in early January.
Not everyone is happy about the project. A lawsuit brought against Botetourt County by a group of concerned citizens will be heard in Circuit Court on Wednesday, Dec. 16.
One of the more interesting boards of the night had to do with wildlife impact. Dave Phillips of APEX is in charge of environmental permitting on the project. He has worked closely on the project with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doing the impact studies on bats, birds and wetlands. The study took a year.
Phillips said, “What we know about bats and wind energy, for instance, is they are attracted to windmills. However, they only seem to have troubles during migration. By setting the speed of the turbines lower, most bats avoid windmills,” said Phillips. “It has been a more challenging question but we have seen some results 30 to 50 percent less problems with bats being impacted by the turbine blades. Migration is generally in August and September. Knowing this is huge.”
Local studies did not show many bats around for the most part in the area, but now they have data to use, so it makes the job more scientific in the approach to wildlife impact.
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