wind farm in Rockingham?

Brent Finnegan -- March 25th, 2008

Last month, the DNR reported that “an unnamed developer has been ‘eyeing’ western Rockingham County as one of several possible Virginia locations for a wind farm […] However, no such plans have been made public.”

Today, the Richmond Times reports that “An unnamed company has started the application process to build 131 of the massive wind turbines in the national forest in Rockingham County…”

What’s with all the secrecy?

12 Responses to “wind farm in Rockingham?”

  1. Scott Rogers says:

    I’m not very well read on the wind farm issue….would it be the state of Virginia, or Rockingham County that would make the final decision on whether this type of project would move forward?

  2. Phil C. says:

    I’m not sure who would make the final decision, Scott…but is Rockingham County a good place for sustainable wind power?

    Actually, here is a better question, and it’s one that I pose to the environmentalists and the preservationists alike…this proposed wind farm is to be placed in the national forest. Obviously, this takes away from the beauty of nature and will most likely have an effect on the local habitat to some degree…but it does provide a clean source of power.

    Which, in the end, would be more important in this case…preserving the land and continuing with the energy sources we have, or do you build an enviro-friendly energy source and deforest a chunk of nature?

    I would imagine that this would be a bit of a dilemma for those who believe in both land/nature preservation AND clean energy.

  3. JGFitzgerald says:

    Nuclear. (Because more people have been killed by lightning.)

  4. Scott Rogers says:

    Phil — I was surprised to see that the proposed location was in the national forest. Do you know if the Highland County project was in the national forest and/or on publicly owned land?

  5. Lowell Fulk says:

    The Highland project is on private land that has been owned by the family since the 1950s.

  6. JW says:

    I bet the Rockingham project is on private land too.
    Lots of private land grandfathered into the GWNF around here. You’d be shocked at how many large tracts of private land there are in the forests around here.
    You can see the private/public boundaries here:
    http://rockingham.gisbrowser.com/home.cfm

    Bunch of hunting camps on top of the ridge above Rt. 33.. few cabins and tracts on top of the ridge above Union Springs Dam, etc.

  7. Hlestyan says:

    The Forest Service is amenable to wind power, when it is properly sited and compatible with the forest management plans.

    The Forest Service has several early-stage evaluations underway, in Michigan and Vermont, and there are also meteorological towers located in the NF in several states. In most cases, the projects that are deemed “compatible” will be those that are to be sited in areas that are what the FS called “heavily managed” (aka: timbered). Because let’s not forget that the Forest Service’s mandate isn’t necessarily to preserve the forests, it is to manage them and get value from them. Some of this value is intrinsic, and some is commodities like lumber. Wind is another possible source of revenue for them, and so they have to consider it. The Bureau of Land Management has been leading the way with permitting wind projects on Federal lands in the Midwest- however, it is perhaps a little more straightforward in assessing compatibility, since that land tends to be open, and there is precedent for leasing for oil and gas drilling, while the FS land tends to be forest.

    The fact that someone is proposing a project shouldn’t be too surprising (because literally anyone could propose a project) and it shouldn’t raise too many alarms in and of itself: the Forest Service still has to evaluate the project for compatibility with their plans, make sure they don’t anticipate adverse impacts to wildlife, etc. Any areas that are wilderness, wetland, habitat, park, etc, are going to be not-compatible. The FS will also determine if a proposed site has any possiblity of conflicting with their future plans, as well as their current plans.

    I think the FS also gets to weigh in on any project that is located adjacent to National Forest, or even within their management areas (which extend pretty far outside the FS-owned land), including private land. I have gotten the impression that they will vigorously oppose any project that they foresee to be problematic.

  8. Hlestyan says:

    Here’s an application for the Green Mountain National Forest wind project, which is in Vermont.
    http://www.epa.gov/EPA-IMPACT/2005/July/Day-15/i13847.htm

    Here’s a link to the BLM’s Wind Energy Development Policy.
    http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/regulations/Instruction_Memos_and_Bulletins/national_instruction/2006/2006-216__.html

    And here’s the Forest Service’s Wind Energy Policy: http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/permits/documents/final_2720_09182007.pdf

  9. Hlestyan says:

    Here’s an application for the Green Mountain National Forest wind project, which is in Vermont.
    http://www.epa.gov/EPA-IMPACT/2005/July/Day-15/i13847.htm

    Here’s a link to the BLM’s Wind Energy Development Policy.
    http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/regulations/Instruction_Memos_and_Bulletins/national_instruction/2006/2006-216__.html

    And here’s the Forest Service’s Wind Energy Policy: http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/permits/documents/final_2720_09182007.pdf
    And the FS permitting procedure for wind power:
    http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/permits/documents/final_2709.11_70_09182007.pdf

    I wouldn’t necessarily characterize this as “secretive” behavior. I know some people will disagree, but hear me out: Seeing what Fish & Wildlife has to say, getting the Forest Service to evaluate some locations for compatibility, and conducting FAA analysis, are all very preliminary tasks which might be done well ahead of anything that would involve the engagement of the general public. It would be difficult for someone to come into town and sit down in a public meeting to tell us details of their proposed project before they even know whether the FAA or Forest Service would approve it. It would be a waste of the County’s time to even start debating it before they know whether it has the potential to exist.

    I’m sure that with Dominion’s interest in renewable energy (evidenced by their recent request for proposalshttp://www.dom.com/news/elec2008/pr0317.jsp), every wind developer worth his salt is looking for something in VA that could be promising.

  10. Bubby says:

    You can view Virginia wind resources mapping here. (The wind maps are large file size, and you can embiggen them – be patient as they load.

    The College of Integrated Sciences and Technologies (CISAT) at JMU administers the Virginia Wind Energy Collaborative. When I spoke with them a few years ago they were offering siting assistance to small investors. To my knowledge JMU is leading the way with wind energy research at Virginia universities.

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