Sunday, August 21, 2011


Are Industrial Scale Wind Turbines a "highest and best" land use in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia?

As we near one of the most significant moments in Roanoke County's history, indeed..., in the history of the Blue Ridge mountains throughout Virginia, I must, with all of the credibility I can muster, make a stand regarding Invenergy's proposed wind turbine project on Poor Mountain in Roanoke County, Virginia.

In 2005~2006, a close neighbor confided in me that he was considering an appealing proposition from a wind developer through his long-time family attorney, Maryellen Goodlatte. At the time, I told my good neighbor (still is) that I didn't really understand the magnitude of the proposed turbines, but in my experience, I've always considered wind generated energy to be a very important effort in a "point of use" application as a conscientious supplement to growing energy consumption. So. I thought if it would help his family to continue to pay the property taxes and some of the family's raw maintenance cost for such large tracts of land, then certainly it sounded worth pursuing.

I dismissed the subject from my mind for greater concerns at the time, such, as the onslaught of the gypsy moths in 2006~2007, that defoliated over 7000 acres of our beloved mountain. Fortunately, our forests are now recovering, though scarred from clear-cutting during the heat of battle against the invasive moths.

Our close community on Bent Mountain also was trying to consider the best route over the Bent Mountain plateau and Poor Mountain for a new high-voltage transmission line. The only option we were given was: Which one of three predetermined right-of ways would the community prefer? We were assured by AEP spokesmen that the purpose of this transmission line was to allow them to "complete" a transmission loop around the Roanoke Valley, and definitely not to serve any new industry in the area.

In 2006, The Roanoke Times reported that Invenergy, LLC was withdrawing their interest in placing wind turbines in the Bent Mountain area, in part, because such a project would require a $1.6M electrical grid improvement project. This was the same year that partners, Diana Christoplus and Mark McClain decided to settle in the Roanoke Valley area and volunteer their lives to helping the Roanoke Valley make decisions about our future.

In 2009, while I was trying to promote, albeit clumsily, enthusiasm over "The Heart of Roanoke", an online urban design experiment oriented toward developing ways for large groups of people to actively participate in the process of planning communities; I heard of the Cool Cities organization. My initial assumption was that they were a green-oriented organization of local people interested in making cities more hospitable environments to live in -- ie, more green ways, more tree plantings,etc. So I called and met with Mr. McClain. Then I came to understand although they appreciated my efforts, their organization stood for much larger causes "region-wide".

In late 2009, rumors started emerging on Bent Mountain that the wind industry interest had returned. In February 2010, Don Giecek and Ms. Goodlatte introduced themselves to the community as representative of Invenergy, LLC of Chicago, IL. At that point, I decided that I needed to quickly start educating myself about wind farms, the technological advances in turbines, and the economic viability of such further disruption of our mountain.

By early June 2010, I started receiving rather ferocious attacks on my personal & professional credibility on line and by email because I was questioning the credibility of a small group of board members of the Cool Cities Coalition to be making such far reaching conclusions about what is best for all of us.

In this specific local issue on Poor Mountain, YES, I am a NIMBY.

My position unfortunately is NOT based upon what I personally have to gain for myself, my family, my community or posterity. My position is based upon what we all have to lose.

There are only two people, that I know of, in the Roanoke Valley who have mathematically evaluated the wind generated energy potential with over 210,000 entries of wind data representing over one year on a Class VI wind site as declared by Virginia Wind Data Charts near the proposed Poor Mountain site. This process is what must be accomplished to develop a thorough evaluation of the proposed land use.

Peer review??? YES, being one of the aforementioned two people, the other being an electrical engineer, we would be genuinely excited to engage in peer review, or as it is called in many scholarly communities "refereeing". In fact, the subject of review of technical data has been continually requested of Invenergy, specifically, and Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition as early as June of 2010. Initially, Mr. McClain promised to provide the necessary data. Later, Invenergy, LLC announced that the data would not be released for consideration because it is proprietary, though funded by over 60% of public money.

Our own Roanoke County Administration, with a level of hyperbole repeatedly claims to have investigated this proposed land use relative to develop a Zoning Ordinance amendment for over two years (that is over 6 months prior to Invenergy's public re-entry into our valley). Yet, no evidence of a rationale for making any judgement regarding the worthiness of the proposed land use itself has been provided. If every member of Roanoke County Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission are unable to show to their constituency irrefutable evidence of justification for adopting and endorsing such a massive use of land in Roanoke County, then the ordinance amendment is dangerously premature for adoption.