Electricity from Ocean Waves

We can use the bountiful energy in ocean waves to power coastal cities and reduce greenhouse gases. Power companies do not need to crisscross inland regions like ours with electric lines from coal plants, and pipelines from fracking fields, to fuel coastal cities.

The wave industry needs faster reviews, more test sites, and more private investment.

Ocean waves are always there, powerful, out of sight, and near the customers. At night and in calm winds, ocean waves continue. The "technically recoverable wave energy resource is approximately 1,170 terawatt hours (TWh) per year" (DOE), enough electricity for 90% of the households in the US.

"More than 100 pilot and demonstration projects exist throughout the world" (2014,Int'l Renewable Energy Agency).

Wave projects capture energy with floats, turbines, pumps, and generators. All use the motion of surface waves relative to seabed, calm subsurface water, shore, or adjacent parts of the surface water. This article describes some of the designs.

Click here to view our Electricity from Ocean Waves page for information on the current state of wave power technology.

Solar Tax Credits Extended

In December 2015, President Obama signed the Omnibus Appropriations Act. which extended federal solar tax credits at 30% through 2019 and expiring in 2022. Since early 2011, this smart policy has helped decrease the average price of a solar panel by 60%. Good news for Mt. View Solar in Berkeley Springs. The company is fostering a new co-op of Tucker, Upshur and Randolph County neighbors which allows each homeowner to save about 20% on solar installations. wvsun.org/tuckerrandolph-co-residents-forming-solar-co-op-to-go-solar-together-and-get-a-discount/

Climate Change, 2016

Bill McKibbin of 350.org, which aims to curb pollution and global warming by keeping fossil fuels in the ground, says the worldwide Paris climate agreement is a start but needs to go much farther. 350 is mobilizing people  in 2016 for demonstrations and direct actions in many countries:  http://breakfree2016.org  

People of faith, including groups like the the San Francisco based interfaithpowerandlight.org are mobilizing about the issues of climate change. It's also a "people problem," as poor people around the world tend to live in areas subject to the greatest climate impact.   Can your church be a "cool congregation"?  coolcongregations.org

In the Mountain State, Friends of Blackwater Canyon helped sponsor a climate change conference in October 2015. Teachers stood up for teaching scientific facts about climate change: http://www.alleghenyclimate.org

Fracking Update

Maryland legislature copied New York’s ban on gas fracking in early 2015: http://ecowatch.com/2015/04/10/maryland-passes-fracking-ban/. "Maryland's more sustainable businesses, like farming, tourism and restaurants would be devastated by fracking", said Eric Robison, owner of Eagle Rock Construction, LLC and president of Save Western Maryland.

For the latest news on the  WV fracking fight, visit frackcheckwv.net

FOr more on how landowners can fight or cope with fracking, visit W.Va. Surface Owners Rights Organization.

Solar: No Shortage

In sunny Hawaii, smart grid issues have reached a crisis. Solar panels have become affordable; householders are jumping to get credits from feeding electricity into the grid, outstripping those who are trying to calculate and manage the grid. The solutions worked out by the islands can have a bearing on solar grids everywhere. cleantechnica.com/2012/11/19/pre … aper-than-grid-solar-electricity

Want solar at your house? Solar units are getting more efficient and less expensive, and draw few neighbor complaints. To outfit your house, check with our award-winning local solar maven, Mt. View Solar in Berkeley Springs, WV mtvsolar.com.

Fracking Crazy!

Natural gas has been touted as “an interim fossil fuel” cleaner than coal. But now its great environmental and human costs are coming to light. A story that aired on NPR Dec. 7, 2012 reported that the head of the University of Texas' Energy Institute has stepped down and another professor has retired after an investigation found numerous errors and flaws in their report, which was slanted to favor fracking. Gas companies were found to have funded the report—an undisclosed conflict of interest.

As if it’s not hard enough trying to keep banksters from taking your home— now gas fracking has seeped into the picture. People living not just on, but near, gas fields are having trouble refinancing mortgages, leading to questions about the worth and salability of their houses.

WV environmental groups have called for a moratorium on fracking, after weak legislation passed in December 2011 did not protect householders and landowners against health and property damage from fracking: frackcheckwv.net.

The groups insist that no new permits be issued until, among other things:

  • WVDEP is required to inspect drilling operations and gas wells and monitor air pollution;
  • Companies add tracers to the hydraulic fracturing fluids so groundwater contamination from drilling operations can be identified;
  • Local towns and counties are allowed to control whether, where and when hydraulic fracturing is done;
  • West Virginians are guaranteed a permanent replacement for water fouled by drilling.

Yet, of course, DEP continues to issue fracking permits, and the gas industry has gotten itself exempt from most national environmental regulation.

In our Potomac Highlands area, gas wells are threatening Morgan and Mineral Counties and other places. The Cacapon River folks are watching the overall issue.

Fracking in Our National Forests

There is no ban on fracking in most areas of the National Forests. A US Forest Service report in October 2010 predicted that 20 vertical exploration/evaluation wells wouldbe drilled in next 15 years in the George Washington National Forest, followed by 50 vertical and 249 horizontal development wells, disturbing the surface of 1500 acres. The report says Marcellus Shale underlies 569,763 acres of the million-acre GWNF. Of this total, 484,299 acres are projected to be capable of natural gas production. The report makes no comments on fracking and water pollution.

However, in May 2012, the West Virginia Conservancy Highlands Voice reported that GW’s draft forest plan had proposed to ban horizontal drilling in the Marcellus formation under the forest. The Forest Service is currently nearing the end of the process of revising its forest plan. This is the same process that the Monongahela National Forest went through in the mid 2000s, resulting in the major plan revision of 2006.

In its draft Environmental Impact Statement, the Forest Service cited “concerns about the impacts of extensive hydraulic fracturing associated with horizontal drilling on water quality, the unknown potential for developing the Marcellus shale formation on the GWNF, and the limited experience with horizontal drilling in the immediate vicinity of the GWNF.” The draft GW Land and Resource Management Plan contained the ban. The public comments submitted on the draft Plan supported it. Approximately 70% of the Virginia residents who commented supported the ban.

But in the Monongahela National Forest, which is almost all in West Virginia, officials declined to modify a 2006 forest plan to deal with fracking, according to the February 2012 WV Highlands Conservancy Voice.

Climate Change: The Number 350

Humans didn’t cause the latest big storms and droughts, but weather scientists say weather effects are worsened by human-caused climate change: specifically, our burning of fossil fuels during the last 200 years. From the days of cave people until about 1800, our atmosphere contained about 275 parts per million of carbon dioxide—a useful amount to keep Earth warm enough for us to inhabit.

When humans began to burn coal and gas and oil to produce energy and goods, carbon in the atmosphere began to rise, slowly and now more quickly. When we turn lights or heat on, refrigerate or cook food, we're taking millions of years worth of carbon, stored beneath the earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere. By now the planet atmosphere has about 392 parts per million CO2 – rising by about 2 parts every year.

Scientists say that's too much. The CO2 number is higher than any time in the recorded history of our planet, trapping heat and causing “the greenhouse effect.” Glaciers, a source of drinking water for millions of people and animals, are melting and disappearing. Sea levels are rising, adding to the effects of Sandy-type storms. Heat-loving mosquitos are spreading diseases. Droughts cause crop failures, including the soybeans and corn in our own Midwest. Food and water problems can destabilize human societies, increasing wars and civil unrest. Major financial interests have begun grabbing land from villagers in Africa and Asia--the same as has been done in West Virginia for two centures.

Climate scientists want us to get the CO2 number back down to 350 parts per million this century, or we risk irreversible impacts, such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and major methane releases as permafrost melts.

How do we get back to 350? Answer: curb fossil fuel burning. We are aware of ways to power by the sun, insulate houses, build buses and trains, design refrigerators, buildings and towns more efficiently, re-use manufactured goods and packaging. The scale of cuts and life style changes is huge. NASA's James Hansen and many other distinguished authors wrote a very readable 28-page paper in 2012 pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha08510t.html), calculating that 6% cuts in world-wide emissions per year (p.10) will get us to 350 by 2100 if we also plant enough to reverse all the deforestation of the past 200 years (p.9). If we don't replant, we would have to eliminate all emissions by 2015, so replaning has to be part of the solution. At 350 he says the reduced greenhouse effect will let enough heat escape the earth to keep temperature in balance (p.8).

Hansen's preferred economic model calculates that 6% emission cuts per year in the US can be reached by a CO2 tax rising $31 per ton per year over 20 years to $620 per ton or 31¢ per pound in 2032 (komanoff.net/fossil/CTC_Carbon_Tax_Model.xls p.24). 6% annual cuts for 20 years are a cumulative 71% cut in emissions. The model assumes fuel use and emissions drop 4% to 7% for each 10% increase in fuel price. In 20 years the tax would add $7.40 to the cost of a gallon of gas, $0.56 per kilowatt-hour, but only 6¢ to 12¢ per passenger mile for bus and train. Hansen would distribute the money as a dividend of $3,000 per year per person. Those large amounts would force us to conserve and change lifestyles, which is the point. The rising tax also stimulates the economy, by encouraging people to buy items now, before the rising tax raises their cost.

Because fossil fuel lobbies seem bent on making money at public expense, they need to be hit in the pocketbook, and investors pushed towards conservation and clean energy.

Continuing fossil fuel subsidies don’t make sense; subsidies are needed for renewable energy technologies that are still in development. greentechmedia.com/articles/read … ossils-72b-renewable-energys-12b

The industry-friendly Environmental Law Institute has a graphic comparing subsidies 2002-2008 (eli.org/pdf/energy_subsidies_black_not_green.pdf), $72 billion for fossil fuels, mostly from tax breaks, and $29 billion for renewable energy, mostly for ethanol. Their full study is at elistore.org/Data/products/d19_07.pdf

Bill McKibben is spreading this word internationally at 350.org He’s asking colleges to divest from fossil fuel investments, just as they did from South Africa to win the battle against apartheid. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is on board.

Energy Efficiency Moving Forward

Energy Efficient West Virginia, eewv.org promotes energy conservation and helps residents and businesses save money on their bills. The group of group of residents, businesses and organizations, led by WV Citizens Action Group, formed in response to a 43% rate increase proposed by Appalachian Power Company in 2009. They plan to advocate legislation for least-cost planning and an energy efficiency resource standard in 2013, to promote greater investment in energy efficiency by our utility companies and help make efficiency programs available to West Virginians that are already offered in nearby states. Given the many old and energy-inefficient buildings in West Virginia, they see huge potential for investing in energy efficiency! They’re looking for people around the state to host potlucks in January 2013 to discuss such initiatives. .

SMART GRID? DUMB AND TOUGH GRID? OR BOTH?

In the wake of the Sandy storm, engineers, policy planners, and computer geeks are asking what kind of electrical power systems, are needed to be more energy and cost efficient, give better service, and withstand natural disasters. And who is to pay for them, and how.

The U.S. DOE has given small stimulus grants for “smart grid” projects which use computers to monitor electricity flowing through the wires and direct power to where it’s most needed. Just to the south of the Potomac Highlands, the Rappahannock Electric Co-operative has put a project into effect:

smartgrid.gov/project/rappahanno … ooperative_smart_grid_initiative

But observers of the New York disaster scene speculate that we need a “dumber, tougher grid” that is simpler and not dependent so much on centralized control:

spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/ene … tly-needed-a-dumber-tougher-grid

A lot of the discussion of power outages has been about expensive underground wires and emergency repairs. But electric (and water) utilities can improve service far faster by building more interconnections within their networks, to create redundant paths for power or water to reach homes when some lines fail.

An EPA study implies that good redundancies in water networks are rare awwa.org/files/GovtPublicAffairs/PDF/PlanningSupply.pdf (p.9):

"Redundant pipe connections and strategically placed valves may make it possible to isolate damaged pipes and minimize the area(s) of lost service. For example, New York City and Cleveland both rely on system redundancy for their emergency water supply plan, while Seattle has means for establishing temporary connections between pressure zones to allow by-passing of certain areas and improve the provision of service."

It is interesting that the bulk of the report deals with truck distribution, not with designing a good network to minimize the need for trucking.

Wikipedia mentions the benefits of network topology without detail en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_supp … s_of_water_distribution_networks

A North Carolina study mentions loops (not networks) in neighborhood service (not area-wide), primarily for underground electric service ncuc.commerce.state.nc.us/reports/undergroundreport.pdf

In sunny Hawaii, smart grid issues have reached a crisis. Solar panels have become affordable; householders are jumping to get credits from feeding electricity into the grid, outstripping those who are trying to calculate and manage the grid. The solutions worked out by the islands can have a bearing on solar grids everywhere.

cleantechnica.com/2012/11/19/pre … aper-than-grid-solar-electricity

Solar and wind are still very little subsidized; Solyndra is a small scandal compared to years of fossil fuel industry tax breaks. greentechmedia.com/articles/read … ossils-72b-renewable-energys-12b

On a household level, both require up-front investment, and there are more companies installing solar than wind. The Clean Techies blog thinks that household solar is soon going to be more energy and cost efficient than a small 35-foot windmill. blog.cleantechies.com/2011/02/03 … -on-wind-in-battle-of-efficiency

For wind and solar news overviews, see https://cleanenergyexperts.com/p … s/research-solar-wind-efficiency

Very quietly, the town of Alderson in Greenbrier County is undertaking an energy efficiency plan, aiming to reduce its energy use and cost by 10% downstreamstrategies.com/documen … ommunity_energy_plan_10-1-12.pdf.

Questions Are Blowing In The Wind

It’s windy on top of Appalachian mountains and, thanks to federal tax credits, wind companies have been clearing acres of forest to build sets of turbines. With renewal of the credits under debate, and evidence of bird and bat deaths mounting, West Virginia environmental groups are wondering if the energy generated is worth the cost to taxpayers and the environment. Industry, government, and environmental experts agree that choosing different locations for wind farms could be a good solution. But often the best wind currents are found in the paths that migratory birds and bats have been using for millions of years. Songbirds and some species of bats are becoming endangered. voanews.com/content/wind-turbine … l-on-birds-and-bats/1524387.html

Do 400 foot towers on mountaintops even make a dent in fossil fuel use? Opponents argue that it doesn’t, even at times of peak electrical use, according to the WV Highlands Conservancy’s Voice newsletters and website. wvhighlands.org/wv_voice/?cat=6

A US Dept. of Energy report on industrial wind farms in Appalachia mainly addresses the barriers to building them (including local objectors and wildlife concerns) rather than measuring their true contributions to energy needs. downstreamstrategies.com/documen … _wind-technical-report-final.pdf

The question still demands objective study: Does industrial wind power really meet the needs and save on fossil fuel and carbon emissions? Or is the industry just taking tax breaks for building big things on mountaintops and killing a lot of birds, bats and scenery for no energy benefit?

Energy Alternatives for West Virginia

According to the West Virginia Environmental Council citizen energy plan, surface mining accounts for only 5,500 jobs in the state, and 80% of West Virginians oppose removing our mountains. Yet the coal industry (Gov. Joe Manchin is a former coal trader) holds a vise-grip around the Capitol dome. The political influence of extractive industry has kept West Virginia from putting priority on nature and history tourism, agriculture and forestry, which all offer hope for jobs. Both major presidential candidates made wimpy noises on both sides of mountaintop removal and called for "clean coal."

Is there a better future for West Virginia other than being an energy colony? Because we don't have a large population, energy self sufficiency is possible, but we have to be committed to it.

In the line of renewable energy itself, is bigger always Better? In 2008 a in California struck down a huge solar project in the desert and recommended small rooftop collectors instead. Could the same principle apply to some of the gargantuan wind turbines that have invaded our Allegheny Front?

Check out the latest worldwide renewable energy news from the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

The West Virginia Environmental Council has a Renewable Energy Campaign that you might want to check into.

Reduce Carbon Dioxide

To save our hills and planet, we must reduce energy and CO2 emissions. The following CO2 chart show the pounds of CO2 released during manufacturing and/or operations. More details and sources are available at CO2.NumbersInstitute.com.

CO2 CARD

POUNDS
OF CO
2

To save our hills and planet
we must reduce energy and CO
2
We need CO2 labeling

CO2 RELEASED BY DAILY OPERATIONS

Electricity

1.34

per kilowatt-hour

Gasoline

20

per gallon

Diesel, heating oil

22

per gallon

Natural gas

12

per 100 cubic feet

Propane

13

per gallon

Hot water

0.08
0.18

per gallon, gas heater
per gallon, electric heater

Airplane

370 +
1.1
X miles

per passenger, per takeoff

Car, 1 person

0.8
0.6

per passenger mile at 24 mpg
per passenger mile at 33 mpg

City or county bus

0.7

per passenger mile

Train

0.4

per passenger mile

Private bus

0.1

per passenger mile

CO2 RELEASED DURING MANUFACTURE

Steel

0.8

per pound of steel

Aluminum

1.5-2.2

per pound of aluminum

Newspapers

2.1

per pound of paper

Personal computer

61

per pound of equipment

Energy Discussion Queries

Barack Obama has called for solving the energy and climate change dilemmas as a way to get our economy on the right track. We don't have all the answers, but we do have some questions for discussion. We hope these will lead to getting unstuck from positions and illusions. We have to see the way things really are in order to make changes.

  • If you can't afford to build in a solar collector up front, can you rent solar cells and put them on your roof?
  • What if the government taxed energy so that the cost of gasoline and electricity tripled charged a nickel per pound of carbon emissions, and distributed the money in dividends to everyone? This would change the economic picture so that industry we would have to become energy efficient. Meanwhile, give cash aid to consumers and taxpayers to survive the transition.
  • Can we get products labeled with the energy used to make them?
  • Could you place windmills on city rooftops-generating power right where the need is-- and make use of updrafts caused by tall buildings?
  • Are wood furnaces less polluting now? Is it now better to burn trash at home than spend gas hauling it to distant landfills? Should government subsidize recycling so there will be less trash?
  • West Virginia is rich in one resource-abandoned, used buildings. The energy cost of quarrying, shipping and building new buildings is much more than fixing old ones-even if this has not been seen til now as far as dollar costs. There is also historical value, and, sometimes, in quality of older materials. How can this resource be put to work to create jobs and build communities?
  • If development is going to happen, what's the ideal size in terms of people and wildlife? A cluster development where infrastructure (roads) is concentrated in one spot, with open space next to it? A more spread out model of 5 or 20 acre lots? Will they keep pressing to build on the open space?

Energy Action Queries

It is widely accepted that humans need to reduce the emission of carbon into the atmosphere. What can we each do as individuals? Can we cut our personal carbon use 20% - 50%?

Cars

  • Can we drive 40-55 mph to save gas? (Safety & speed limits permitting!)
  • Can we use conference calls for half the meetings we drive to?
  • Can we stay under 1 gallon of gas per day?
  • Can we rearrange our trips to use public transit? (To both save gas & to help have more public transit in the future.)
  • Can we put a trip computer in our vehicles to display miles per gallon continuously?

Buildings

  • Can we keep our buildings at 60° in winter, especially when guests come? (Energy use is proportional to the gap between inside and outside temperatures. When it is 40° outside, the gap between 4° and 60° is 2/3 the size of the gap between 40° and 70°, so energy use is 2/3 as much.)
  • Can we air condition to only 80° or use fans? (When it is 90° outside, the gap between 90° and 80° is half as much as the gap between 90° and 70°, so energy use is half as much.)
  • Can we close unused rooms in heating and air conditioning seasons?
  • Can we have a smaller home or share the house, to avoid unused rooms?
  • Can we set the water heater at 115°?
  • Can we turn off the water heater at night and when no one is home?
  • Can we stop shower flow while soaping, and fix the dripping tub diverter?
  • Can we turn off the stove pilot lights, and use a lighter?
  • Can we and our friends share a wattmeter to find electricity used by each item?
  • Can we add insulation?

Other

  • Can we avoid flying?
  • Can we avoid powerboats? (See fuel.boatwakes.info)
  • Can we drink tap water? (Every bit of bottled water from the store uses energy for packaging and transport)
  • Can we avoid wasteful packaging?

January 2009: Overwhelmed by Wind Towers; Still No Answers For Birds, Bats, Landowners

In November, AES Laurel Mountain notified the West Virginia Public Service Commission of its intent to construct a wind project at New Creek, Mineral and Grant Counties. That's in addition to groups of wind turbines AES is already working on Laurel Mountain in Randolph and Barbour counties and on Backbone Mountain, Greenbrier County. The proposed project by Liberty Gap Wind Force, in Pendleton County was denied by the PSC.

There are questions about how much energy these huge wind turbines provide in exchange for killing birds and bats and impacting property values in sensitive natural and scenic areas. Longtime energy researcher Rick Webb, who spoke at a West Virginia sustainable fair in Buckhannon in 2007, questions whether the wind power boom is truly green, or taking advantage of government tax breaks; see vawind.org. Many wind energy companies are reluctant to address the issues of birds, bats, site earthmoving, and scenery. Here they are behaving like typical energy companies, and therefore need to be watched. wind-watch.org is a site generally opposed to wind power. There are no doubt good uses and sites for wind; we just want to see our ridges valued and protected.

January 2008: Wind Turbines - Too Many, Too Big, Wrong Places

Imagine a single wind turbine over 400 feet tall on a 3,800 foot mountain top -- a curiosity, perhaps a point of interest for tourists. Now add hundreds of them, up one ridge and down the next. Then add acres of tree clearings and roads to build them -- many in wild areas of the Potomac Highlands. Now you have an eyesore and environmental plague. Plus an excuse, now that the mountains are scarred, for more industrial invasions. This is not imaginary, but is actually happening. This is why landowners and residents throughout West Virginia are coming together to save our mountains and challenge the proliferation of wind "farms" in West Virginia.

Must the Potomac Highlands be sacrificed for this green energy scam? Why aren't alternatives to these monstrosities being implemented? Small turbines could be installed on roof tops right in the cities where power is needed. (A type of windmill called a vertical axis wind turbine doesn't kill birds, bats, or views! More information is available at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_turbine.)

Greenbrier County conservationists are challenging Beech Ridge Energy LLC / Chicago-based Invenergy LLC over a $300 million, 124-turbine project in western Greenbrier County. Residents are awaiting a WV Supreme Court ruling on their appeal of the PSC approval decision.

Friends of Beautiful Pendleton County successfully intervened at the Public Service Commission against US Wind Force's Liberty Gap project in Pendleton County. The developer proposed 50 turbines on Jack Mountain, running from the state line north for approximately 6 miles in the county.

The Laurel Mountain Preservation Association is challenging the romantic green image of wind power. AES, a $14 billion power company from Virginia, wants to build up to 80 windmills on Laurel Mountain, crossing both Randolph and Barbour counties.

Landowners in Grant County, represented by former WV Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Neely, filed a nuisance law suit against NedPower/Shell Wind Energy/Dominion protesting property devaluation, noise and hazardous effects of the giant spinning blades. Phase I turbines of the huge Grant County project are now visible for 40 miles. Sadly, our mountains--our backyards, our wilderness areas, wildlife, and wildlife habitats are being sacrificed by large companies not just to grab coal, but now in the name of "green energy." The road building and clearing of forests will pollute watersheds and destroy highland wetlands.

Federal tax benefits pay as much as 65% of the cost of building huge windmill "plants" in the U.S. Huge energy companies use these well-intentioned renewable-energy tax breaks to cut costs and continue to generate most of their power with fossil fuel. The huge windmills also require a reserve of power to operate -- in other words, they have to take electricity from the power grid in order to generate power.

The unfortunate truth is: Big Wind is mostly hot air. Help us save your mountain top today! Send donations to Stewards of the Potomac Highlands, and don't forget to ask questions of your county commissioners, state legislators and Congress members.

January 2007: Wind Turbulence - Big Energy Blowhards Batter Birds, Bats, and Blustery Citizens

Landowners on and near the Allegheny Front in Grant, Pendleton, and Greenbrier Counties possess some of the most beautiful, sensitive, historical and scenic spots in the East. Many inherited a love of the land from their grandparents and great-grandparents. Others recently invested in their dream homes in the wilds of West Virginia, only to find their dreams interrupted by the unnerving rush of wind turbine blades from 400 foot high, unsightly industrial towers on the spine of the Allegheny. Fueled by another year's extension of federal tax breaks and high prevailing wind patterns around mountaintops along the eastern continental divide, the wind companies plan hundreds of turbines. Dozens of these 400 foot towers have already been erected in Grant and Tucker Counties. Mountains are damaged in the construction of the huge tower bases. Whirling blades have been killing thousands of birds and bats.

Since the wind turbines are labeled renewable "green" energy, some environmentalists support them without knowing all the pros and cons. In 2004, the wind industry said it provided nearly 17 billion kilowatt hours, enough to serve some 1.6 million households. This is less than 1% of the country's electricity production. Analysts said future expansion of the industry depends on more tax breaks.

Among environmental groups, supporters and opponents of the turbines agree there should be regulations on where the towers can be sited. Local county commissioners are always courted by the companies and often fail to ask tough questions, but more recently, the U.S. Department of Interior did act to protect the Sinnett Thorne Mountain Cave System in Pendleton County. And federal representatives, including Congressmen Alan Mollohan and Nick Rahall, have expressed concern. Please encourage Rep. Mollohan's efforts; call his office at 202-225-4172.

Because there are no siting regulations, landowners and neighbors are protesting the wind companies' utility permits at the Public Service Commission. They're also filing lawsuits charging that the turbines' damage to scenery, land and wildlife constitutes a public nuisance. Earlier this month, Citizens for Responsible Windpower went before the PSC and charged that NedPower Shell Wind Energy has changed the scope of the project by placing turbines less than 400 feet from homes and in bald eagle habitat north of Dolly Sods. In addition landowners in Grant County, represented by former WV Supreme Court Justice Richard Neely, filed a suit against NedPower. The Supreme Court voted to hear arguments in spring 2007, but NedPower ignored the Court decision and began construction.

A PSC hearing scheduled for December 12th about the Liberty Gap wind project was postponed until April 16th. Eve Firor of Friends of Beautiful Pendleton County, opposing the Jack Mountain turbines, reported that the group agreed to a continuance rather than ask the company to resubmit its application. Liberty Gap did not reveal that while they applied for a siting permit for up to 50 wind turbines on Jack Mountain, their request to Allegheny Power to intertie at the North Franklin Substation was to connect 112 turbines, meaning they have plans to extend the wind farm into Highland County, Virginia.

Eve said that Friends was told of the canceled December 12th hearing only the day before, after many members were already on their way to Charleston. This is one of the many nightmares that put citizens at a disadvantage.

Small companies that first propose wind projects are usually bought out by big corporations, such as NedPower, acquired by Shell, which is now selling part of its stake to Dominion. As with the coal industry, the new companies often insist they don't have to follow agreements that the former companies made with landowners and citizens. Landowners and tourists who love the scenery are worried that, like the West Virginia coalfields, the Allegheny Front could become a national energy sacrifice zone.

Large wind companies have mounted a massive public relations campaign that vastly overstates the benefits of industrial wind power. They have managed to persuade some state legislatures to mandate its use, thereby creating an artificial market for its product.

Stewards believe we should not follow like sheep, but ask serious questions. Questions such as:

  • Who said wind power has to consist of enormous, intrusive towers?
  • Who is working to encourage small scale wind power to be more effective?
  • Why are environmentalists not concentrating more on this potential for appropriate small-scale technology?
  • Companies such as Turby are now marketing nine-foot windmills that can be placed atop buildings in windy cities. Development for appropriate small-scale home windmills is being slowed by the sale of inadequate equipment, according to the British newspap … class='cite'>The Guardian.
  • These wind turbine projects are another overbuilt monster invading our Potomac Highlands, like Corridor H and the proposed a href="/railsroads">10-lane I-81. Someone must stand and ask questions.

Studying Birds and Windmills

Citing inadequate bird impact studies by wind farm developers along the Allegheny Front, Friends of the Allegheny Front (FOAF) in 2003 announced plans to hire an expert from Cornell University to carry out a thorough nocturnal bird migration study beginning in Spring, 2004. The study will verify the relative numbers, species, and dynamics of spring bird migration along the ridgeline. The Front is one of the major routes for bird migration in eastern North America.

FOAF also asked the WV Public Service Commission for a moratorium on the NedPower project pending one complete year of monitoring studies. Evidence continues to grow that wind farms pose serious danger for birds, bats, and other wildlife. Studies released in October from the new Backbone Mountain wind project in Tucker County, owned by Florida Power and Light, reported over 400 bats killed. This is the largest bat kill in the world at a wind turbine facility, and it is conceivable that 100,000 more may be killed annually at this site. Mutilated bats had broken forearms, broken wings, and severed heads. This is intolerable considering many of these species only produce one young a year. The endangered Virginia big-eared bat is known to use a cave that is approximately 3-1/2 miles from the proposed Allegheny Front windmills.

In response to the deluge of wind power facilities planned or under construction in the tri-state area, FOAF is forming a coalition with groups in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. A citizens group, Friends of the Appalachian Highlands, in Meyersdale, PA, recently issued a letter announcing a possible lawsuit against a planned wind power project on a 2-mile long swath of ridgetop near Meyersdale. The letter, which is a prerequisite for legal action under the Endangered Species Act, states that the erection of turbines and operation of the facility pose an immediate threat to an endangered species, the Indiana bat.

Responsible Wind Power: Tilting At Windmills

windmillsizeStewards oppose 200 enormous steel windmills on the tops of 14 miles of mountains from North of Dolly Sods to East of Mount Storm Lake.

It makes no sense to save mountaintops and then cover them with whirling steel.

The windmills would reach over 400 feet above ground - visible for miles - and would be lit at night for the safety of airplanes. The blades turn at up to 200 miles per hour. They actually produce very little power, and coal-based power plants are still needed as backup when the wind is too weak or too strong to run the windmills. It would take 3,000 windmills to match the power of just one coal fired plant like the one at Mt Storm, and we would still need the fossil-fueled plant as backup.

The Campaign to Preserve Malpeque, a citizen's group against the construction of windmills in their tranquil community on Price Edward Island, Canada, has an infomative web page: The Problems with Wind Turbine Industrial Complexes. Closer to home, Glenn R. Schleede, Energy Market & Policy Analysis, in Reston, Virginia has provided his analysis Evaluating the Costs and Benefit … for Wind Power [138KB pdf file]

"Wind power will be part of our energy future, but we have to be smart about where and how we go about it," says Caroline Kennedy of the national citizens group Defenders of Wildlife. "West Virginia has already paid a high environmental price for this country's energy demands."

This rush to build windmills is made profitable only by temporary tax breaks and the fact that consumers in other more affluent states are willing to pay a premium for what they perceive, and are being told, is "green" energy.

Stewards joined local and national environmental groups in opposing the project. Defenders of Wildlife and Friends of Blackwater filed a notice of intent to sue based on potential harm to the West Virginia northern flying squirrel, the endangered Virginia big-eared bat, and migratory birds. Stewards has donated to the legal battles.

A local group of landowners and farmers, Friends of the Allegheny Front, filed a protest with the WV Public Service Commission (PSC) and continue efforts to protect their land and scenic mountain viewshed. They convinced the PSC to block Dutch-owned NedPower's plan to build turbines in the project's southern section, because it was too close to Dolly Sods. However the PSC approved NedPower's 200-turbine facility on top of 14 miles of the Allegheny Front.

Citizens for Responsible Wind Power called for the PSC to halt permits for wind power until the state can develop siting criteria.

West Virginia Highlands Conservancy has debated the pros and cons of wind power on the Allegheny, and decided to oppose one Guascor Group project at Rich Mountain because of severe impacts on recreational views