Wind farm green-lighted by SCC
Three months after the state supreme court tossed out a challenge by neighbors and five days before Christmas, Virginia's first proposed wind farm cleared what may have been its final regulatory hurdle, as the State Corporation Commission granted a certificate of public convenience to the 20-turbine, 39-megawatt, wind farm proposed in an ecologically sensitive forest in the Allegheny Mountains.
The approval for the project by Highland New Wind LLC comes with strings attached in the form of a commitment by the developer to allow officials with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to monitor the site for dead birds and bats since the tips of the jumbo-jet-sized blades can whirl at speeds of 91 to 184 miles per hour.
Wind energy as a so-called "green" energy source has split the venerable Sierra Club which, according to wind opponents, has branded the concept of turbines on mountain ridges as a "bad idea" while the the group has simultaneously promoted state legislation for commercial incentives for wind development.
The SCC's extensive plan includes giving state and federal officials unrestricted access to the site, located near the West Virginia line in Highland County. In addition to setting limits on the kills of birds and bats, the SCC also issued a list of penalties for kills of specific species. A killed osprey or eastern screech owl, for instance, would incur a penalty of $500 while the death of each bald eagle or peregrine falcon would cost the company $1,500.