West Virginia’s Pinnacle Knob Wind Project – So many questions, so little time!

Allegheny Treasures is starting to receive, what appears to be open questions from readers regarding the Pinnacle Knob project, proposed for Mineral County, WV.  At least they’re still open to the submitters!  Maybe these have been answered, maybe not.

So, how about this thought.  I’ll just put up the raw questions as they come in, without edit, and let anyone who wishes, toss in an answer or a comment, or, heck, add another question.

You can use any alias you wish on the comments, if you don’t want your name “out there.”  Just make sure comments are on point and respectful of others.  I don’t know how we’ll sort our way through, but we’ll learn as we go.

Most of all, help us find out all we can, before the questions no longer matter.

Let the games begin:

  1. The eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii) is extremely rare and critically imperiled in West Virgina and endangered in nearby Maryland.  As this bat is found inhabiting rock outcrops on Appalachian ridgelines and is known from the Allegheny Front, how can this project be built without imperiling this bat and its roosting and foraging habitat?
  2. The same applies to the Allegheny woodrat (Neotoma magister), which is either very rare and local throughout its range or found locally in a restricted range.
  3. Rock outcrops are also habitat to the Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus).  This reptile is rare in many parts of its range.
  4. Appalachian ridgelines, due to their elevation, provide habitat to a suite of animals and plants not found at lower elevations.  These high elevation habitats are limited in extent compared to lower elevation sites.  Why should we detrimentally alter these “sky islands” for a low amount of electricity and small number of permanent jobs?
  5. The Allegheny Front and many other ridgelines form at certain times an important migratory pathway for numerous birds and bats during spring and fall migrations.  Studies have shown that Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) in particular are more than likely susceptible to being killed by rotating turbine blades during spring migration along the Allegheny Front.  They migrate along the front when winds are from the SE at an altitude within the blade sweep of proposed wind turbines. Within the United States, the Golden Eagle is legally protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.  How can the project be built without increasing the mortality on the Golden Eagle and other birds migrating along the Front?
  6. Since the first wind-power plant was built on Appalachian ridgelines, bat mortality has been a major conservation issue.  Literally, thousands of bats, primarily tree bats, are killed over a few short weeks each year during migration at Appalachian wind-power plants.  These bats are killed by being hit by rotating blades as well as by internal hemorrhaging consistent with trauma from the sudden drop in air pressure (a condition known as barotrauma) at turbine blades.  Cumulative impacts from a multitude of wind projects in the Appalachians could well contribute to the deaths of tens or hundreds of thousands of bats annually.  Curtailing the operation of turbines so that the blades do not turn during migration can prevent this mortality.  Will the developer curtail wind turbines during bat migration in spring and fall to minimize this mortality?
  7. Other environmental issues include loss of existing habitat, habitat fragmentation, increases in detrimental edge effects, increases in invasive species pathways, increased runoff into streams, indirect effects of blade movement, noise, light flicker on use of the area by wildlife.  How can the developer justify these environmental insults for such little gain in societal benefits?
  8. Separate from any “grid” requirements, is there evidence that an immediate need exists for WV, and by default this community?
  9. Does a need exist within the foreseeable future?
  10. Is there evidence the grid, for which the Pinnacle electricity is destined, has an immediate need.
  11. Does the need exist within the foreseeable future?
  12. If yes, what is the estimated percentage of electricity the Pinnacle project is expected to generate to the grid that cannot be made available by other existing sources?
  13. Assuming this to be true, wouldn’t it seem that US WindForce would prefer installation at Pinnacle occur nearer to the time of need, so that the Community served, would receive the maximum benefit of the latest technological advances in safety and efficiency?
  14. Moving energy production closer to the source and perhaps eliminate miles and miles of power lines and energy lost in the transmission over long distances seems to make sense.  What benefits are provided by installing turbines in remote areas away from consumption, such as the proposed Pinnacle installation?
  15. Is there evidence that the Pinnacle project will, within the next 10 years, replace any existing fossil fuel power plants currently supplying the grid to be supplied?
  16. Is the Mitsubishi Turbine specified for the Pinnacle Project proposal available to meet schedule, should construction take place during 2010?
  17. Will the recent action by General Electric, requesting that imports of the specified Mitsubishi Turbine due to “patent” infringement issues, impact schedule?
  18. Is the Mitsubishi Turbine Model specified firm in the design, or is consideration given to other modes/suppliers?
  19. If alternate sources are utilized, will that impact output requiring additional towers?
  20. Other than, perhaps increased tax revenue to the Community, what specific negative impact to the grid would occur should the Pinnacle project be delayed for 2, 5 or even 10 years?
  21. Is it possible that in 2, 5 or even 10 years design improvements to wind generators will become available that could provide:
  22. More efficient turbines operating at greater than current industry standards?
  23. Improved turbine and control designs to better accommodation to Environment concerns such as bat and bird kills?
  24. Improved turbine blade designs to further reduce noise, flicker and other issues common in communities with existing units?
  25. Is it possible that in 2, 5 or even 10 years improved sources of electricity could become available through new technologies and improvements to existing power sources?
  26. It has been suggested recently that forecasts for additional energy sources will actually occur for this region in the window of 10-15 years in the future.
  27. It was suggested that the local area would not be the beneficiaries of the energy generated by Pinnacle and that, in fact a majority of the energy would be consumed by major cities, many of which are located near coastlines.
  28. If so, is it not in the interest of the industry and citizens to push for offshore installations, as many in Europe now suggest is the better choice?
    1. Some members of the Community believe that, lacking heavy taxpayer subsidies and ultimately higher utility rates, wind energy cannot stand, and, in effect the taxpayers, when receiving rebates are simply getting back some of their own money.   Would USWF care to offer concrete evidence to the contrary, including sources?
      1. Is the contribution projected based on property taxes to be paid by the land owners holding the property leases, or does it include business taxes paid by the Pinnacle owners?
      2. Will contributions to the Community chest come as a result of increased electricity rates as a result of the addition of Pinnacle to the grid?
      3. What historical evidence suggests the increased revenue estimates are reliable?
      4. Has USWF been able to confirm actual versus projections from any of the active sites in the immediate area?
        1. It has been implied by local elected officials supporting formally endorsing the installation that New Page, a vital partner in our Community, will benefit from the installation.  Implied also in their statement is, and as a result of the Pinnacle installation, will be able to sustain or even add jobs and product market share.  We have not seen this confirmed by New Page, or conversely that, lacking the existence of the Pinnacle Wind Farm, they will need to reduce personnel or lose market share.
          1. Has New Page stated either position to USWF?
          2. Does USWF accept this premise?
        2. Some have suggested that, lacking subsidies, the installations will not continue to operate.  They express concern that installations will be abandoned and that the local community will be left to “clean up the mess.”  What specific financial guarantee is provided by US Wind Force, or required in ownership transfer to any future owner who acquires the facility, to dismantle and remove from the site, inoperable units?  (Inoperable by failure or choice)

        As always, please notify the writer of broken links, errors or commissions so we can take immediate corrective action.

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