The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

February 14, 2009

PSC gives final OK for wind farm

Just two days after Gov. Joe Manchin introduced a sweeping renewable energy proposal to lawmakers, the state Public Service Commission on Friday gave its final stamp of approval on a $300 million Greenbrier County wind farm.

The much anticipated decision came nearly 41/2 years after Chicago-based Invenergy first applied for a siting certificate to construct 119 giant wind turbines on 23 miles of mountain ridges owned primarily by MeadWestvaco. From the start, Invenergy officials touted the nation’s need for clean, renewable energy and the hundreds of jobs that would be created from the construction of the Beech Ridge Energy wind farm located about 9 miles east of Rupert.

Manchin introduced the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act to lawmakers Wednesday evening. It would eventually require 25 percent of electricity sold in West Virginia to be generated from wind, solar and hydro-electric facilities.

And, as if on cue, the Manchin-appointed, three-man PSC green-lighted the controversial Greenbrier County project by publishing its 41-page decision late Friday afternoon.

During its deliberation, the PSC sorted through more than 800 pages of supporting documents supplied by Beech Ridge that bolstered the energy company’s claim it had complied with 18 preconstruction conditions previously mandated by the PSC in 2006.

“ ... the commission concludes that all pre-construction conditions have been met and authorizes construction begin on the proposed Beech Ridge Energy LLC wholesale electric generating facility in Greenbrier and Nicholas counties,” Friday’s order stated.

Construction of the 186-megawatt wind farm, which will require a 138-kilovolt transmission power line that connects to an Allegheny Energy substation near Nettie, is anticipated to take about seven months and will create about 200 jobs and between 15 and 29 full-time, permanent jobs.

“While we have not had time to review the entire order, Beech Ridge Energy is very pleased that the Public Service Commission has given us the green light to start construction,” said Dave Groberg, director of business development for Invenergy. “Despite the current economic conditions, we are ready to put skilled West Virginians to work building this clean, renewable energy project this year.”

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