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FAA approves test towers for Pulaski County wind farm

A clean energy company that wants to put four towers on a Pulaski County ridge to test conditions for a wind farm has received clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA determined this week that the 198-foot-tall test towers would not pose a hazard to passing aircraft.

Approval by the agency is an early step in plans by Apex Clean Energy of Charlottesville to build an energy-producing wind turbine project south of Claytor Lake, on land within the 17,000-acre Blue Ridge Boy Scout Reservation.

Apex is also planning a wind farm in Botetourt County; that project is well ahead of the one in Pulaski.

Tentative plans call for a wind farm in Pulaski County that would produce 180 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 50,000 homes. That’s more than twice the output of the Botetourt project, which is expected to include a row of 25 turbines – each one as tall as 550 feet – on top of North Mountain near Eagle Rock.

Four towers planned for Pulaski County do “not exceed obstruction standards and would not be a hazard to air navigation,” according to a determination posted to the FAA’s website.

The test towers, which do not have the large spinning blades of wind turbines, are temporary structures used to gather data on wind velocity and other conditions. They are usually among the first steps taken by wind farm developers studying a potential site.

Should Apex decide to move forward with what it calls Pinewood Wind, it would need approval from a number of other bodies, including the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the State Corporation Commission.

Boy Scout officials have said in the past they are receptive to the idea of leasing land for a wind farm.

Meanwhile, a public hearing is scheduled for May 25 on Apex’s plan to build what it calls the Rocky Forge Wind project in Botetourt. The hearing, which is part of the DEQ permit application process, will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Eagle Rock Library.

The Botetourt County wind farm could be the first of its kind in Virginia.