Plans to construct as many as forty 400-foot-high wind turbines atop a 4,000-foot mountain in Virginia’s rural Tazewell County are encountering fierce turbulence from local residents who fear the loss of the area’s natural beauty.
In keeping with the Obama Administration’s push for renewable energy, and its simultaneous regulatory assault on coal, energy giant Dominion Resources wants to put the turbines along an 8-mile stretch of East River Mountain near Virginia’s border with Kentucky and Tennessee. Like many other utilities around the country that are facing ever-tightening federal emission limits, Dominion is shifting away from coal and embracing wind power in addition to its already large stake in natural gas. Wind facilities are heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers through the Wind Production Tax Credit, making it an increasingly attractive alternative for utilities.
The administration’s meddling in energy policy is now coming home to Tazewell County, which is seeing jobs in its coal mines disappear. And many residents are up in arms over the prospect of seeing their scenic ridges marred by giant wind turbines.
“We’re losing our foothold in the coal industry and now they’re proposing … Oh, by the way: We’re going to take your beautiful land forrenewable energy?” local resident Charles Stacy told the Washington Post (Aug. 23). “It’s insulting, really.”
Feeling the heat from outraged constituents, the Tazewell Board of Supervisors recently passed a zoning ordinance banning “tall structures,” a category that includes giant wind turbines. The county’s move will set up a clash with Dominion that may end up in court.
With the county’s economy reeling from the loss of coal jobs, there is hope that the mountainous area’s natural beauty, with its network of all-terrain vehicle trails, could be exploited to attract tourists. But this prospect would be dashed if Dominion moves forward with the wind facility. The Richmond-based utility already owns 2,600 acres, about 4 square miles, on or near the site of the East River Mountain wind farm and it wants to acquire more land for the project.
“It’s not that it wouldn’t come with challenges and be difficult to build with the roads and infrastructure needed to put it in place,” David Botkins, a spokesman for Dominion told the Post. “But our assessment is that it would be best onshore Virginia location.” Virginia currently has no onshore or offshore wind farms.
Little economic benefit
The damage the project would do to the area’s natural beauty and wildlife, including the inevitable killing of birds and bats by the rotating turbines, would hardly be offset by the facility’s job creation. Even Dominion acknowledges that, once completed, the unsightly project will create no more than 10 to 15 permanent jobs.
Dominion was once a stalwart defender of the coal industry; it was part of its strategy of having a diversified energy portfolio. But that was before the Obama Administration’s onslaught against fossil fuels, starting with coal. Dominion is now going with the flow of anti-fossil-fuel regulations and sweetheart subsidies for renewable energy imposed by Washington. Among the losers will be the people of Tazewell County who have lost their jobs and may lose their area’s natural beauty thanks to Obama’s “Green” policies.