The Botetourt County Board of Supervisors recently approved Apex Clean Energy’s permit for construction of the Rocky Forge wind farm on North Mountain, adjacent to the Rockbridge County line. Soon, Apex will submit its application for a permit by rule to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and a 30-day public comment period will begin.
GCube, a leading insurance underwriter for renewable energy projects, released a report on fires at wind farms, “Towering Inferno,” in November 2015. According to the report, there are an average of fifty turbine fires yearly. This amounts to one out of every 6,000 installed turbines catching fire each year. There are many causes, from lightning to human error, but sometimes the turbines simply suffer internal malfunctions and catch fire. Such fires often result in the total loss of the project and are at high risk of spreading to surrounding areas.
The proposed Rocky Forge wind farm would consist of twenty-five 550-foot-tall industrial wind turbines, sited on a forested mountain ridge. Given that such turbines have a documented history of catching on fire and that Botetourt County is already prone to forest fires – one year ago, a fire caused by improperly disposed ash burned 1,500 acres in Buchanan.
A turbine-caused fire could cause unimaginable damage to life, property, and natural resources in the area. All individuals and groups who have a stake in the safety and health of Botetourt and Rockbridge Counties would be wise to speak up during the upcoming public comment period.
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