Project Development, Wind Power

Wind Farm Developer Fights Back

NedPower Mount Storm LLC issued a statement, in which it deplores how some people disguise themselves as environmentalist, while they only want to ensure that no wind farms are being built, under any circumstances, in their back yards, in West Virginia.

Chantilly, Virginia – February 17, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] This form of development opposition known as NIMBY, short for not in my back yard, has plagued developers for years. NedPower is referring to the “Friends of the Allegheny Front” and the “Friends of Blackwater” which served NedPower a notice last week of an alleged violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). With the notice they are trying to intimidate NedPower and the WV Public Service Commission (PSC) with the threat of legal action if the PSC is to issue a certificate of convenience (expected within the next 30 days) for NedPower’s 300 MW wind farm currently under development in Grant County, WV. The wind farm will be occupying less than 100 acres on a 14-mile ridge, in an area which is mainly used for strip mining and logging. It will be right next to an old 1,500 MW coal fired power plant. Construction is expected to start later this year. Ironically, NedPower’s wind farm is widely supported by the project’s immediate neighbors, the people of Grant County, and the local labor unions. Apparently, most opponents are not residents of WV or Grant County. They are a small group and consist mainly of a few disgruntled members of WV’s leading environmental organization, the West Virginia Highland Conservancy (WVHC), which recently declined to intervene against NedPower’s project. Reportedly these disgruntled members do not want any wind farms in West Virginia anywhere, under any circumstances, because they do not like the looks of wind turbines. They also oppose the Mountaineer project, a nearby wind farm now in operations, and other wind farms under development in WV. Now that the WVHC has declined to intervene against the NedPower project, these disgruntled members are operating through other splinter organizations, like the “Friends of the Allegheny Front,” a 4- (four) member organization, which was formed specifically to oppose the NedPower project, and the “Friends of Blackwater.” “We are accused by these people of killing birds, bats, salamanders and flying squirrels,” said the President of NedPower, Mr. Niessen. But we are in an ongoing dialogue with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the WV Department of Natural Resources (DNR) about our project and have a hired a number of well respected biologists to determine whether or not certain endangered species may be present on our site.” NedPower wants to design a bird, bat and endangered species friendly wind farm, all in accordance with the ESA and Migratory Bird Treaty. For example, five Northern Flying Squirrels were found and NedPower established a habitat and buffer zone, which it will not disturb. NedPower also commissioned two bat studies, a bird migration study, a turbine lights study and a Golden Winged Warbler study to determine the most bird and bat friendly locations for its turbines and most environmentally friendly aviation lights for its turbines. “The irony is that while we are working together with the USFWS for the environment by designing an environmentally responsible wind farm to produce Renewable Energy, these so- called environmentalists are working to ensure that Coal remains King in WV,” said Niessen. NedPower’s opponents also accuse the project of not generating any property taxes or other benefits. “Nonsense,” says Mr. Michael Reel, President of the Grant County Development Authority, “according to our own estimates, the project will pump close to US$1.5 million per year in the local economy.” The project is also strongly supported by the local unions, since it will generate about 200 construction jobs and 15 permanent jobs in operations and maintenance, jobs badly needed in Grant County. “Unfortunately,” said Mr. Niessen, “our opponents are not interested at all in this, despite what they say. I am convinced we care more about the environment than they do. Their only concern is that they do not want to see any wind turbines in their backyard or playground.” Frank Young, President of West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, shares NedPower’s concern about what he calls “red herring” distractions from the emotional esthetic issues driving some folks’ opposition to certain wind power projects. “Environmentalists have legitimate reason to argue that power plant permitting agencies such as the Public Service Commission should have in place siting criteria for all power generation facilities — including both coal and wind power plants. And those criteria should include consideration of special view sheds as well as effects on the entire ecological system,” said Young. “However,” Young adds, “Environmental groups risk squandering their credibility and the credibility of good environmental laws when they raise Endangered Species Act or Migratory Bird Act issues only as diversionary tactics when often their real objection to wind turbines is that they just don’t want them to be visible from certain places.”