STATUS: In progress, with opposition
OPPOSITION: Laurel Mountain Preservation Association; Highlands Conservancy
BACKGROUND: In January 2008, AES Laurel Mountain, LLC filed an application with the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) for a siting certificate to authorize the construction and operation of a wind farm on the crest of Laurel Mountain, near Elkins. AES plans to construct and operate up to 61 wind turbines from the southern end of the string near Elkins, then north along the ridgeline, to the northern terminus west of Montrose. The facility’s generating capacity would be approximately 130 megawatts of electricity. The Laural Mountain Wind Project would result in 80 to 100 new jobs in construction and 8 to 10 jobs during operations.
The Laurel Mountain Preservation Association opposes the project. The organization was formed in 2005 to promote an appreciation for the historical significance of the Battle of Laurel Hill, and believes the project will undermine this goal. They argue that the presence of wind turbines will destruct the historical heritage and reduce the effectiveness of the battle’s re-enactment that takes place annually.
Another group, the Highland Conservancy, stated that their most important reason for opposing the project relates to the difficulty of wind-grid integration, i.e., the wasteful nature of the project in terms of environmental damage vs. coal burning and CO2 production avoided.
In November 2008, the PSCapproved the application for the project. The PSC order granting a siting certificate requires Laurel Mountain, in consultation with Commission’s Staff, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources to provide guidance on the scope, development, and implementation of certain post-construction studies to commence no later than one year following commercial operations of the Project. The studies would assess the project’s impact on bat life, the potential for adaptive management strategies to mitigate those impacts, the expected cost of those strategies over a range of mitigation effectiveness levels, and any other aspects of bat/wind turbine interactions identified.
As of November 2010, the project was under construction and is expected to be completed by the end of summer 2011.
SOURCES: The Inter Mountain http://theintermountain.com/page/content.detail/id/502594.html?nav=5014;
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy : http://wvhighlands.org/wv_voice/?p=590;
West Virginia Public Broadcasting: http://www.wvpubcast.org/newsarticle.aspx?id=17776
Last updated December 3, 2010