Wind farm: who do you root for?

JGFitzgerald -- April 22nd, 2009

The Forest Service recently rejected a wind farm in the George Washington National Forest, citing the need for new roads, availability of other locations, and failure to blend into the landscape. Is it a triumph for preserving green space, or a failure for creating green energy?

61 Responses to “Wind farm: who do you root for?”

  1. seth says:

    it’s complicated huh?
    i’m inclined to lean towards the former and say that we need to continue to develop technology to exploit our wind resources in proven/already developed areas so that if we are placing turbines in national forest or other types of protected/unspoiled land we’re getting maximum output with minimum impact.

    i’ll always remember the lawyer for the wind project in highland county frustratedly exclaiming that the environmental regulatory agencies who control permitting and what not don’t behave like business people. i thought that was golden.

    i do think that it’s important to remember that whether energy companies sell fossil fuels, wind, solar or cold fusion, they are still energy companies. i guess that my conern is that it’s possible we’ll eventually get to a point, in terms of profit mitigating environmental concerns, where big wind may not look all that different from big oil.

  2. Bubby says:

    It is a triumph of common sense and clear thinking by the Forest Service.

    The USFS balances many missions and building the wide roads necessary to truck these behemoths and covering the ridgetops with turbines doesn’t fit for all the reasons that they detailed. Forest Service land is not a cheap source of real estate for energy speculation.

    I’m in the process of siting a wind turbine for my personal use and I’d like to give a hat tip to our hometown advocates – the good folks at JMU CISAT and the Virginia Wind Energy Collaborative (VWEC). This is the lab visited by Democratic Lt. Gov. hopeful Jon Bowerbank this week. I’ll receive 30% tax credits for my install, and if Congress and the Va. General Assembly get their act together and incentivise the process me and many others will soon be getting a check from the power company and selling carbon offsets on the national market. I don’t need free land from the Government to do this.

    As VWEC shows in this report (page 4, pdf), the real wind energy in close proximity to our high demand consumers is in the Chesapeake Bay. We’ve been mining the Appalachians and spewing power plant exhaust across the Valley for 100 years so that all Virginians can keep the lights on – time to share the sacrifice.

  3. hlestyan says:

    I would say it is neither a triumph or a failure, merely process in action.
    Is this the best site from an energy perspective? As someone who has done extensive investigation of the wind resource in VA, I would say: probably not. Is it incompatible with the forest plan? Well, that is certainly for the Forest Service to say, although my personal opinion is that since this is not an area of forest that is heavily managed (read: logged), it is difficult to suggest that the trees should fall in favor of the energy.
    A better location would be one where the land has been cleared for generations and farmed/ranched, mined, or timbered.

  4. Karl says:

    This is a great topic Joe and I was wondering some of the same things when this story came out about two weeks ago in other local media.

    I can’t agree totally with Seth on the “proven” areas. The forest and other land owners are not even willing to allow these companies to test the viability of projects in new areas.

    Seems it would be a lot easier to ask the OPEC members if they would start working on wind energy so we can buy what’s produced from them…works for oil right? The US can’t get out of its own way with projects and new innovation like this and is why any “green” jobs plan doesn’t cut it for me. The jobs and the technology may be great, but there would be less opposition if you were building a prison. The projects are dead in the water, or just blowing in the wind.

  5. Bubby says:

    Karl: We’re living in the age of Google, not General Motors. The Green revolution won’t need no stinking permits, just a mental adjustment and few less obstructionists.

    Would someone unstick my post from this morning?

  6. Karl, speaking of what the local media did and didn’t cover in recent weeks, why isn’t anyone (WSVA, WHSV, or DNR) talking about the multimillion dollar civil suits against Walter Curt accusing him of being at fault for the two people who died on a boating trip in 2007?

  7. Karl says:

    Jeremy, thanks for the tip. I don’t know how we missed that. I usuallly do a google search that would find something like that, but have not seen that anywhere. Sounds like morning drive on Thursday :)

  8. JGFitzgerald says:

    Not trying to be argumentative – well, maybe just a little – but WMC is well-off, rich, has deep pockets, etc. Would the news not be if he had not been sued in this instance?

    (The thread is now officially off-topic.)

  9. Them’s a lot of negatives in that last sentence, Joe. Are you asking whether it should be newsworthy when a local figure (regardless of wealth) who has been the subject of numerous other news stories is sued for negligence leading to the deaths of others?

  10. JGFitzgerald says:

    Many news outlets will cover a lawsuit, especially on the nebulous grounds of “negligence,” only when it is settled or adjudicated. Many of the same news outlets will tell writers never to use the word “for” in a legal action. “Accused of,” perhaps, but not “for.” So, no, I’m not really asking if it’s newsworthy. I’m saying it’s not.

    (Full disclosure: I worked for Walter for four years.)

  11. Well I can understand that standard. What’s odd is when a news organization which DOESN’T have that standard fails to pick up the story. See the following DNR stories about pending civil suits:

    Lawsuit Brought In Death
    Fatal Wrecks Lead to Civil Suits

    And from WHSV:
    Seeking Damages for Woman’s Death in Dog Attack

  12. Jamie Smith says:

    Maybe Wally will put up some wind farms to keep his mind off the law suits! Now we’re back on track.

  13. JGFitzgerald says:

    Your contention that the DNR doesn’t have that particular standard is overly specific, and implies that it has any at all.

    If I ran the world the story would not be news because the only basis for it being news is WMC’s … let’s call it celebrity. In the DNR’s world, it isn’t news yet because they haven’t received a press release from a government entity.

  14. BANDIT says:

    …about 2 weeks ago I heard that Walter Curt’s home was for sale but, I don’t know this to be true.

  15. Lowell says:

    I personally would rather see a horizon lined with spinning turbines, than one that has had the top six hundred feet shaved off and pushed into the valleys to get to the coal.

    I understand that it’s not that simple, but it is a pretty effective realization tool to get folks thinking.

    I think Bubby’s vision of individual of power production and individual independence is one aspect that should be promoted and the potential should be realized and pursued. The thought of subdivisions across the state with each house sporting a hybrid wind/solar generating system is very attractive to me, and very feasible, if we get behind it. But the large scale production is also necessary.

    As is pursuit of ever improving of the efficiency of our use of electricity…

  16. Lowell says:

    might be a couple extra “ofs” in that post…

  17. BANDIT says:

    What time is morning drive? Must be at the 6:33 am news cast. Just was expecting a news story on Mr. Curt.

  18. Karl says:

    Too much news today Bandit. I had several stories on the desk that didn’t make it and the rest of the local media didn’t force my hand.

    We’re pretty heavy on court stuff already today, so it may have to wait longer. It’s a story, but the fact that it’s not as timely as the rest of the stuff we’re writing pushes it down the list.

  19. BANDIT says:

    Thank you for the response and I don’t mean to give you a hard time but, 2 – people died and over $20 million in lawsuits…they don’t get much bigger than that around here. Timely ? Well, the lawsuits were only filed a week or so ago or that’s when the Roanoke Times broke the story and you could of ran it then, had you known.

  20. Karl says:

    bandit, you don’t have to sell me on the merits of the story.

    You’re right that we would have run the story back when the Roanoke Times broke it had we not missed it. Now we have new stories that become less and less important the longer they don’t make it to air. I don’t think the lawsuit story suffers from that problem. The impact is the same today as it would have been Wednesday.

    I appreciate the input. In a conversation on this board a while back I learned that I was wrong about the importance of power outages and have grudgingly changed the way I deal with that. In the end the listeners opinion matters more than my own, but I hope they know that there is an actual thought process behind what we do.

  21. Renee says:

    I have no idea who Walter Curt is, but I’d like to see more discussion about the windmills – I find the topic interesting.

    To me, there are of course downsides to wind farms with bird kills and messing up the landscape, but huge windmills are so fascinating and the future of energy is in the “alternative” means – I say put them up. They are beneficial, and of all the things that could be installed in people’s “backyards” (thinking of NIMBY) they are some of the less-destructive. Though not ideal, a windmill can be taken down in the future if need be.

  22. Renee says:

    Also, when riding an Amtrak, we rounded a mountain and came across a view of several gigantic windmills. They were beautiful in their own way.

  23. Lowell says:

    I’m right there with you Renee, they do have a graceful beauty.

  24. Even more full disclosure:

    JGF, didn’t Curt give you money when you ran for office?

  25. JGFitzgerald says:


    Walter didn’t give me any money when I ran for office. Either time.

  26. Sorry, Joe, I had the impression he did…

    I apologize.


  27. JGFitzgerald says:

    Impressions … yeah, I get that a lot. :)

  28. I’ll just be you do, Joe. :-)

  29. BANDIT says:

    What is WSVA news department’s slogan?
    Seriously….do you only report what is in the DN-R?

  30. Emmy says:

    Bandit, I think you’re confused. If we’re ranking who gets a story first out of the major media outlets, then WSVA almost always comes out with the story first. It’s very rare for it to be the other way around. WSVA often has stories days before the DNR or WHSV.

    But, that’s really not the point of this discussion, it is wind energy.

  31. Lowell says:

    Good to see you Emmy, and as always it was a pleasure to share conversation with you. And thank you for pulling the thread back on track.

  32. Karl says:

    I agree with several posters that the windmills are an awesome and beautiful sight. My first time was riding up through PA. I rounded a corner, saw them and was just wowed.

    Bandit, we should have our conversation elsewhere. We threadjacked and it was quite rude. Feel free to email me Your last comment seemed very odd and off base. Emmy’s defense is appreciated, but honestly WHSV has been very strong of late. I think the three media outlets are all having their successes in “breaking” news. At the same time the DNR still appears to be the local media of “record.” This thread is a great example of what I’m talking about.

  33. Lowell says:

    I think both Karl and Tim do a very solid job of reporting the news.
    Thank you…

  34. Bill says:

    I’d much rather listen to Karl and Tim than read a repeat of the RTD in the DNR.

  35. BANDIT says:

    OK…sorry about that but, this is where I read the info regarding Walter Curt, on this thread. It only made sense to respond back here.
    Just for the record, going of topic happens all the time here at hburgnews and other blogs alike..sometimes it leads into good conversations and sometimes it doesn’t. I have read hburgnews for quite awhile now and every single one of you has gone off topic before.
    Lesson here, ” people in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks at others…. while being guilty of the same thing”.

  36. Emmy says:

    Yes Bandit, it happens, that doesn’t mean we can’t try to steer it back on course.

  37. David Miller says:

    I heart windmills, there I said it. It was impulsive, silly and on topic.

  38. David Miller says:

    I think that the question here is should we chop up the amazing resources that surround us to provide energy for expanded consumption. If we aren’t taking a multi-lateral approach and are simply patching the puncture wound with band-aids, then I vote for pristine forests over cleaner power (HLestyan, I’m with you about re purposing existing usages) until someone comes up with a thorough and complete plan.

  39. The comment about this discussion being off topic is off topic.

    I hope that one day (hopefully in the not-too-distant future) society will look back at how we’re using energy today — the non-renewable, carbon emitting sources, energy-hungry appliances and vehicles — and laugh, “What a dumb waste of resources.”

    I’ve read that solar energy is “easily capable of providing many times the total current energy demand,” but we still don’t have adequate technologies to harness it. I think improving our solar and wind-harnessing technologies should be the primary focus of any/all energy policy at this point.

  40. David Miller says:

    I’d like innovation and congruence over the one plan or another option.

  41. Ben says:

    Some of these arguments over beauty and function simply have to be filed away under irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The current alternative is digging up entire mountains in somebody ELSE’s backyard. It’s a small world, after all.

    Walter Kurt has never given me any money either.

  42. BANDIT says:

    …harness the wind, baby….harness the wind.

    So, when is Karl running the story?

  43. Emmy says:

    He did this morning. The Curt story that is.

  44. BANDIT says:

    Thanks Emmy…I missed it. I just checked WSVA’s web site and no mention of the Curt story.
    The desert would be a good place for wind energy farms. The not-so-flattering designs would not be seen and there is plenty of wind out there.

  45. BANDIT says:

    Once again, thanks Emmy, I found it.
    Out in the desert , there are fewer birds thus, less bird kills from the wind turbines.

  46. JGFitzgerald says:

    A man in a Moose lodge in Hopewell, Va., in 1987 (or ’88, or thereabouts) was telling about his trip to the Grand Canyon, and said he couldn’t wait to get home to watch the videos, because it didn’t seem real to him until he could see it on his own TV. “You know what I mean?” he asked, kind of rhetorically, and the answer was, quite frankly, “No,” but it’s kind of like the guy who reads a story on the Roanoke Times site, and sees the link on hburgnews(dot-com) but can’t really believe it until he hears it on WSVA. I would not believe this in real life, but I do on the internet.

  47. BANDIT says:

    No, it’s more like the guy who said that tax collection rates couldn’t be figured out this time of year and less than a week later, it came out in the news paper…
    Now…. in the desert you will have sand blowing a lot so, we will have to design the wind turbine with that information in mind.

  48. JGFitzgerald says:

    Play by the rules … tax collection rates between Neal’s office and Shafer’s office can’t be accurately compared yet, for the reasons stated previously. The DNR can report numbers, but can’t change facts.

  49. BANDIT says:

    Well, you know… that Moose Lodge can figure how this years profits compared to the previous year’s just by comparing the same time period for both years … just like taxes. It doesn’t have to be cumulative over the past decade to know where you stand now.
    Now about those wind turbines …. we should TAP into the JET STREAM with a satellite type of wind turbine…..

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