Saturday, September 15, 2007

Zoning for Virginia's first wind farm gets high-court approval; state commission next hurdle

The first industrial wind farm in Virginia got a green light yesterday from the state Supreme Court, which said the Highland County Board of Supervisors did not make errors when it gave the project a conditional-use permit. Now all it needs is a permit from the State Corporation Commission, but opponents could appeal that decision to the Supreme Court, too.

"Adjoining landowners and other opponents said the giant windmills would kill birds and bats, hamper tourism and ruin the scenic views of a county known as "Virginia's Switzerland'," reports Laurence Hammack of The Roanoke Times. "Supporters say the $60 million project could provide power to about 15,000 homes, generate tax revenue for the county and pose no adverse effects on the environment."

The project of Highland New Wind Development would have 19 turbines on masts as tall as 400 feet on top of Alleghany Mountain, near the West Virginia border. "With wind power a relatively new concept for the East Coast, the case was watched closely by energy developers and conservationists," Hammack writes. "But precedent-setting decisions are more likely to come from the SCC than from Friday's court action. The legal challenge heard by the Supreme Court dealt with narrow procedural issues and zoning requirements -- not the fundamental arguments for and against wind farm technology." (Read more) For the SCC hearing officer's report, click here.

The Recorder of Monterey is following the story of wind power in the East. Last month the weekly newspaper looked at the prospects for it in adjoining Bath County. "Though supervisors and planners agreed they need to plan head, the federal lands making up half the county could mean there's little they can do to prevent the industry from taking hold," Charles Garratt wrote. His story is a good primer on the industry, especially in the East.

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