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Wind energy on North Mountain

Wind turbines will be installed on North Mountain.

Wind turbines will be installed on North Mountain.

Aaliyah Tribble, Staff Reporter

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Plans to build an industrial wind facility in Botetourt County have recently been approved by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The county may just be the first in Virginia to have them.

Wind facilities like the one being installed on North Mountain are designed to create a non-polluting way to generate electricity. They are seen as eco-friendly options of power. When the wind blows, it moves the turbines and the wind is converted into energy underground and is directed to sources near the turbines.

Jeff Scott of Virginians for Responsible Energy deemed the upcoming facility as a way to “help reduce the production of greenhouse gases by conventional coal and power plants.”

The results from the installation of this facility are both good and bad. Some benefits of the turbines include eco-friendly power and the creation of jobs.

Charlie Johnson of Rocky Forge Wind said, “There is virtually no downside to a wind energy facility. Wind projects like Rocky Forge, are an economic boost to the community. They create jobs and new tax revenue which can be used for schools and emergency services. Rocky Forge will also generate enough clean electricity for up to 20,000 homes, using no water and emitting no harmful pollution.”

However, not everyone is as enthusiastic about these turbines. Many organizations, such as Virginians for Responsible Energy, have been protesting the construction of this facility.

Scott disapproved of the facility, saying that “Apex is claiming 20,000 homes will be powered by these turbines. The data that we’ve gotten was expected that the winds showed that’s nowhere near what they will be generating.” He also said “turbines are well known to kill birds especially migrating birds.” Additionally, Scott said, “when energy demand is at the highest, in the middle of the summer, everybody’s running air conditioners and so on that is the time when winds are at their lowest and so you know you’re not going to be saving any burning of coal and gas of that kind in the air which is a big energy use.”

The plans to build this facility have been in the works for a while, though they were just approved at the beginning of March. Production is expected to begin within the next year and be finished within a year after that.

Johnson said that “the project could begin construction as early as the end of 2017, which would support a commercial operation of the project by the end of 2018.”

Although the facility is the first in the state, there have been proposed sites for possible wind facilities in places like Floyd and Tazewell.

“We certainly hope it will be the start of a new technology in the Commonwealth and more projects will be built around the state,” said Johnson.

The anticipated wind facility in Botetourt has comes with its own set of benefits and downsides. Whether or not it ends up doing more damage than good, only time will tell.

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