Coal has played a major role in US history and economic development, particularly in West Virginia, which relies on coal-fired power plants for 99% of its electricity. That’s going to change, at least to some degree, if the state legislature passes Governor Joe Manchin’s proposal to institute a renewable power standard.
West Virginia’s Public Service Commission approved Chicago-based Invenergy’s plans to build a $300 million, 186-megawatt wind farm in Greenbrier County, just two days after Manchin introduced the ‘Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act’ in the state legislature. The renewable power standard would require West Virginia electric utilities to increase their reliance on renewable energy resources, including wind, solar and hydroelectric, and reach a 25% target by 2025. If the bill passes, West Virginia would become the 28th state to enact such legislation.
The Long Road to Wind Power on Beech Ridge
It took almost 4-1/2 years for Invenergy’s Beech Ridge Energy wind farm proposal to make its way through the public regulatory review process.
Now that it’s approved, Invenergy expects to have the wind farm built in about seven months. This entails erecting 119, 400-foot tall wind turbines across 23 miles of mountain ridges about nine miles east of the town of Rupert, creating around 200 jobs during construction and between 15 and 29 permanent, full-time positions, according to a Register-Herald news report.
Invenergy’s development plan includes building a 138-kilovolt transmission line that will carry electricity from the Beech Ridge Energy wind farm to an Allegheny Energy substation near the neighboring town of Nette.
The long and drawn out public and regulatory review process highlights the difficulties, expense and protracted length of time power companies and project developers face, even when it comes to developing renewable energy resources.
Opponents of the project, led by Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy, a grassroots organization made up primarily of people who own property adjacent to the wind farm site, argued that the wind farm would decrease property values, ruin the scenery, and possibly kill an endangered species of bat. They also questioned the wind farm’s sustainability and the decommissioning aspects of Invenergy’s plan. A group spokesperson said that it would appeal the PSC’s decision and may well take its fight all the way to the state Supreme Court.
The project will add $400,000 a year to Greenbrier County’s treasury. Invenergy is also required to post letters of credit, eventually reaching $20,000 per turbine after 16 years, to assure the county and state of its ability to fully comply with requirements related to decommissioning the wind farm and removing the wind turbines from the site.