Thursday, April 23, 2009

Blowin' In the Wind... not yet!

The Forest Service has taken the wind out of the sails of a proposed wind farm in the George Washington National Forest - for the time being, anyhow. Freedomworks, a Harpers Ferry renewable energy firm, had plans to build 131 wind turbines, each 400 feet tall, along the Virginia/West Virginia line in the GWNF in Shenandoah, Rockingham, and Hardy counties. The system could produce 215 megawats and sold to the state grid. Freedomworks had already received clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Forest Service said the plan fell short on three points that are part of the George Washington National Forest Land and Resources Management Plan:
  • The turbines would not blend into the landscape,
  • Freedomworks failed to prove the project couldn't be done on private land, and
  • the project would require building 19 miles of roads in an area where only 2 miles of road should be built.
There is a good chance the decision could be reversed. With the Obama administration and Congress pushing more renewable energy there may be new directives and guidelines coming from D.C. And the Forest Service spokesman added that if Freedomworks can address the issues "in any way" the permit may be revisited. It is hard to see how the turbines can "blend into the landscape," but the other two issues seem ripe for compromise.
Wind turbines, especially large farms like this one, seem to divide environmentalists. Yes, they should be located and designed to minimize impact to wildlife, sensitive plants, and the beauty of the area. But, if we are serious about renewable energy, Americans and environmentalists are going to have to find a middle ground and adjust our NIMBY mentality on these types of projects. Our future depends on it.
There is more in the Daily News-Record.

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