April 11, 2009- A Harpers Ferry, W.Va., company’s proposal to build 131 wind turbines on Great North Mountain has been rejected.
This decision by the National Park service is a small victory for protection of George Washington National Forest’s ridgelines. SVN filed comments in January 2009 as part of the revision of the George Washington National Forest management plan, calling for a ban on industrial wind energy projects due to the severe impacts on intact forested ridgelines. Read more in our GW National Forest section
©The Northern Virginia Daily, April 11, 2009
Proposal for wind turbines rejected
By Preston Knight —
EDINBURG — A Harpers Ferry, W.Va., company’s proposal to build 131 wind turbines on Great North Mountain has been rejected.
In an April 2 letter, Maureen Hyzer, the supervisor for the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, denied FreedomWorks LLC’s proposal to install three meteorological towers that would collect wind and other necessary data to support installation of future wind turbines.
FreedomWorks submitted the proposal for the three towers in early December, according to a Tuesday memo from Jim Smalls, ranger for the Lee District. The company’s plan to build 131 turbines on mountain ridges in Shenandoah, Rockingham and Hardy counties, however, was made known about a year ago.
Permission from the U.S. Forest Service was just one of the obstacles FreedomWorks had to clear. Hyzer ultimately went against the firm’s proposal because it does not comply with the forest management plan and it did not specify a sufficient rationale for why the use of national forest land was necessary, the memo states.
In the letter to FreedomWorks representative Tim Williamson, Hyzer states that each turbine would generate two megawatts and create at least 500 acres of permanent openings. Among the specific reasons why that poses a problem is the need for at least 16 miles of new roads, she states.
“While the roads could be closed to all but the contractor, the amount of time the roads would be used would constitute activity at a level equivalent to an open road, thus exceeding the Forest Plan standards,” Hyzer states.
The towers, each to be more than 400 feet tall, would harm the visual landscape, she states, and open up at least 500 acres of forested land, blocking the goal of providing remote habitat for wildlife .
Moreover, the proposal asks to use national forest land because of the need to generate power within a 100-mile radius of Washington, D.C., something Hyzer also sees as problematic.
“A cursory look of that 100 mile radius shows numerous opportunities for your proposal in areas other than national forest,” she states. “Some of these areas exist in the ocean, which is said to provide the best wind resources near D.C., other areas exist in the Chesapeake Bay, and on dozens and dozens of ridgelines in VA, MD, WV, and PA.”
Frank Maisano, a spokesman for a coalition of wind-energy developers in the mid-Atlantic, said that Hyzer’s decision underscores the difficulty of trying to get renewable energy projects approved.
“It’s unfortunate that the Forest Service doesn’t seem to be moving in the same direction as [President] Obama’s administration,” he said. “They’re directing for more renewable projects, yet the Forest Service is doing the opposite. … The administration’s own Forest Service is standing in the way of carrying out new priorities.”
Maisano said had the meteorological towers been approved by the Forest Service, as they were by the Federal Aviation Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others, the number of proposed wind turbines could possibly have decreased or the project could have been scratched altogether because of insufficient winds.
“It’s disappointing that you can’t even put a … tower up just to see if wind is adequate,” he said. “No one knows what would have happened.”
In a phone interview Friday, Smalls said it was hard to separate the meteorological tower proposal from the 131 proposed turbines. The 131 figure remained solid for a year, he said, and the Forest Service took the number into account and how it relates to the existing forest plan. That plan is being revised and will identify places where wind turbines could be best suited.
“I don’t know if Great North Mountain is going to come out [suitable],” Smalls said.
If FreedomWorks submits another proposal, it must comply with the forest plan and sufficiently explain why forest land, and not private property, must be used, he said.
“We said no to this proposal,” Smalls said. “It doesn’t mean we can’t have future proposals.”