State regulators in conjunction with West Virginia’s Public Service Commission have scheduled a public hearing on a proposed expansion of Invenergy's wind farm operations in Greenbrier County.
Invenergy subsidiary Beech Ridge Energy II is seeking approval from the Public Service Commission to construct 33 turbines west of the company's existing Beech Ridge Energy wind farm. Beech Ridge currently has 67 turbines.
Invenergy informed WVVA-TV that the expansion could create more than 150 construction jobs, and least three jobs will be created when the turbines are operational.
West Virginia is home to four wind farms: the 66 MW Wind Energy Center in Tucker County, the 264 MW NedPower project in Grant County and the 100 MW Beech Ridge project in Greenbrier County and the 98 MW Laurel Mountain project in Barbour/Randolph counties. An additional 365 MW of wind electrical generation capacity have been permitted and are under development in West Virginia.
In the past, conservation issues surrounding the growth of wind farms in West Virginia has been a major obstacle towards full endorsement of the clean energy source. According to American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, three of the four wind farms in West Virginia have experienced bird and bat fatality events.
In 2011, 500 birds at the Laurel Mountain wind facility were killed after lights were left on at an electrical substation affiliated with the wind project. The lights seemingly attracted many of the birds and caused them to become disoriented. On May 23, 2003 at the Mountaineer wind farm in the Allegheny Mountains, at least 33 birds were killed while 59 birds and two bats were killed at the Mount Storm facility in 2011, which is also located in the Allegheny Mountains.
The Beech Ridge Wind Energy Project in Greenbrier County has not experienced large mortality events, likely because it is currently prohibited by a court order from operating during nighttime between April 1 and November 15.
The public hearing for the Beech Ridge Expansion is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 10 at Rainelle City Hall.
Sources: National Wind Watch, WVVA-TV