We’ll just plop down a few wind turbines and Poor Mountain will look pretty again and, oh yeah, you’ll get rich and save the world!

(Image courtesy of Windtoons)

A local resident says, “The area where they would go has been decimated by gypsy moths, it’s been logged, it has TV and other towers already,” Elswick said. “The windmills actually might improve the look of the mountain.”

Here’s a quick Google tid-bit from the Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation that didn’t make the article:  Poor Mountain Natural Area Preserve:  In autumn, the forest slopes and ridgetops of Poor Mountain are brightened by the brilliant yellow foliage of piratebush. Poor Mountain Natural Area Preserve protects the world’s largest population of this globally rare shrub, which is restricted to only a handful of sites in the mountains of Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. The mountain is named for its impoverished soils derived from metamorphosed sandstone bedrock. The ridgetop, 3,000 feet in elevation, is predominantly a xeric Table Mountain pine and oak woodland. Piratebush is a dominant understory shrub in this community along with huckleberry and blueberry. Piratebush is also found with mountain laurel in the hemlock ravines and mesic pine forests of the lower elevations.

Now, here’s the article from The Roanoke Times online edition:  Turbines proposed for Poor Mountain

A clean energy company wants to put 15 windmills on the ridge; a public meeting is set for tonight.

By Duncan Adams

A Chicago-based clean energy company envisions a wind farm of 15 turbines atop a portion of Poor Mountain in Roanoke County.

Invenergy’s power-generating windmills would be 443 feet from base to the highest tip of a blade and occupy ridge lines along what has been described as one of Virginia’s windiest land-based wind power generation sites.

Don Giecek, a business development manager for Invenergy, noted that Poor Mountain already hosts telecommunications equipment, other infrastructure and an access road with which the project could intersect. And Appalachian Power Co. has an existing transmission line nearby, offering a potential carrier for the power generated, he said.

Bent Mountain resident Ed Elswick, a member of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, said he thinks the wind farm’s development could be a good thing for the county. It would provide green energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and might even improve the appearance of Poor Mountain, he said.

“The area where they would go has been decimated by gypsy moths, it’s been logged, it has TV and other towers already,” Elswick said. “The windmills actually might improve the look of the mountain.”

He emphasized he was expressing his own opinions and was not speaking for other residents of the area or for the county board.

A roughly comparable but smaller project in Highland County, developed by Highland New Wind Development, generated controversy about the effects on scenic views of 400-foot turbines and potential consequences for migrating raptors, other birds and bats. That project was recently cleared by the Virginia State Corporation Commission to become a commercial wind farm.

Giecek repeatedly emphasized that the Poor Mountain proposal is in its preliminary stages and that Invenergy plans to communicate early and often with county officials, Bent Mountain residents, officials for the Blue Ridge Parkway and others.

The first step is applying for a permit from the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure the tall turbines would not endanger aircraft, he said. Other permit applications would follow, including applying to Roanoke County for the proper land-use permits and seeking approval from the SCC, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Giecek said preliminary estimates suggest the company would invest between $80 million and $100 million on the project and that the wind farm would create “significant revenues” for Roanoke County while not requiring water, sewer and road improvements.

Giecek said that the wind farm, as envisioned, could generate enough electricity to serve about 8,000 households. The company has leased about 2,000 acres from primary owner Frank Terry, but Giecek said the wind farm structures would actually occupy a fraction of that.

Todd Burns, a spokesman for Appalachian, said it is too early to speculate about how and whether the wind farm might connect to a transmission line.

“It’s obvious they have to connect to a transmission grid and there is one there,” Burns said.

The utility has been approved by the SCC to build another 138-kilovolt transmission line across the mountain that will roughly parallel the existing line, he said.

Appalachian could buy the plant’s output, Burns said, which would be one revenue source for Invenergy, which describes itself as the nation’s largest independent wind developer. He said the utility has purchased power before from Invenergy.

Giecek said the project’s construction would create 50 to 100 short-term jobs and two to three full-time salaried positions once the wind farm was fully operational.

As for potential tax revenues for Roanoke County, Giecek said firm numbers are not yet available. But he said projected annual tax revenues for projects in Highland and Wise counties range from $200,000 for Highland to $600,000 for Wise.

Many proposed wind farms have presented dilemmas for environmentalists, conservationists, wildlife groups, local officials, and clean energy advocates — groups that typically support alternative energy but also often voice worries about the effects of the turbines on view- sheds, wildlife and cultural/historical resources.

Elswick said he can see Poor Mountain from his residence on Bent Mountain. He said he has seen windmills operating in the West.

“To me, they are kind of a wonderful thing to look at,” he said.

Giecek said Invenergy is ready and willing to hear concerns about the proposed project.

“What is upon us is an opportunity to listen,” he said.

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