I read with dismay the January 21 commentary by Christopher West of Conservatives for Clean Energy ("Botetourt wind farm should be approved"). In that commentary Mr. West supports the plans by Apex Clean Energy to build an industrial wind facility on top of North Mountain in Botetourt County and makes the statement that “Rocky Forge is ideally suited to be the Commonwealth’s first wind farm.” This statement shows a stunning lack of knowledge by Mr. West about what the impacts of that project would have on local citizens, the environment and how little electricity would actually be produced.
While the reasons why Rocky Forge should not be built are too many for this letter, three key points are as follows:
1. Insufficient Winds. The wind speeds reported by Apex are minimal for driving wind turbines. And when electricity demand is at its highest in the summer, wind speeds are low and are highly variable. Turbines will be turned off on summer nights to prevent bat kills, further reducing power generation.
2. Wildlife Habitat Loss. Mountain ridges are some of the most environmentally sensitive and important areas in Virginia. Impacts to protected and endangered species will be devastating. Rocky Forge is located in the Buffalo Creek – Purgatory Mountain Wildlife Corridor and is on the migratory route for many birds, including the protected Golden Eagle. Wind turbines kill thousands of birds and bats. This devastation outweighs any potential benefits.
3. Destroys Scenic Views. Botetourt County's Comprehensive Plan states: "Preserving scenic views and vistas is particularly important for Botetourt County. The County’s scenery is critical to the rural character and is one of its most distinguishing features. The Blue Ridge Mountains are a national attraction and derive their popularity from spectacular views." This local beauty produces valuable economic impact. Erecting 680 foot tall man-made structures destroys the natural beauty and these proposed turbines will be visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I encourage Mr. West that in the future he needs to do his homework before endorsing a project that he knows nothing about except what the project’s backers tell him.