The original NedPower presentation to the PSC (click here to view PDF) - made some 20 or so assertions to substantiate the Mt Storm Project application, commencing in 2001 through to 2003.
On the basis of this information the PSC granted NedPowers application. However - if the PSC had known then what we know now - would they have been so receptive?
Let's analyze the claims made by NedPower and assess each one.
Claim #1 - Nedpower is 100% owed by US citizens and residents paying US taxes
Evidence from Nedpowers own website (strangely offline in 2004/2005) -
- Franz Barillaro (London) - Franz Barillaro is an engineer and MBA with twenty years exposure to the power sector.
- Athina Dessypri (Athens) - Athina Dessypri is another successful INSEAD graduate with a strong track record in business development and corporate finance. In Greece, she established the two leading stock broking firms and consequently has unrivalled access to the Greek private and public sector. She has now joined NEDPOWER where she is responsible for the company's activities in the Mediterranean.
- Inga Brereton (London) - Inga is the London office manager with responsibility for administration, treasury and accounts. Prior to her joining NEDPOWER she acted as PA to the Managing Director of a mining finance company and to the Managing Director of the IOD in London.
- Jerome Niessen (US) - Jerome Niessen co-founded NEDPOWER and brought to it extensive project finance experience.
- Rembrandt Niessen (London) - Rembrandt Niessen originally founded NEDPOWER in 1995 and now has a recognised track record in the wind sector.
Claim #2 - $25 million in new business sales in WV during construction
What is happening to the bulk of the $350M project funding? Appears that most of this is now going to Pennsylvania to a Spanish owned company for turbine construction so it is headed offshore / out of state. Does not sound like a "local" project. Only about 8% of the money is actually being spent in WV!
Claim #3 - Produces enough energy for 60,000 households.
Do that many homes really receive replacement 24x7 power supply? Actually no! Because wind power is only available for about 25% of the time - you still need all the existing coal fired power stations to step in for the 75% of the time wind is not viable. So we're spending $350M to actually not change how those 60,000 homes get their power most of time. Yes - that is $5,833 per home - that's enough to pay each house for 12+ years of that same power delivery.
Claim #4 - Project widely supported in 2001 throughout local communities in Grant County.
In fact very few people knew about it at all - it was a stealth project! For example - no "build notices" were posted directly on the roads and land areas effected themselves. and "public meetings" were attended by a select few of local dignitaries who were hand invited to attend. In fact less than 1% of people in the County had even heard of the project back then. The Cumberland Gazette - largest paper in the area - did not carry the news or the announcements.
Claim #5 - NedPower has contacted stakeholders - with neighbors open house + environmental community buy-in.
The reverse is the case - knowning that their project would likely not have broad support - the local meeting were not advertized effectively / nor held during summer. And the environmental community has vigorously opposed the project since it was known about (after the initial PSC hearings) since day one.
Claim #6 - The project uses less than 200 acres - across 12 miles - of largely strip-mined and logged land - with little use - and within 1.5 miles of the existing power plant. Existing access roads and logging roads will be used.
Unfortunately this grossly mispresents the real picture as can be seen from todays project maps - in reality the construction is very directly adjacent to main public roads with large seasonal and daily through traffic use and many local homes. Substantial wooded areas and fauna are included. Development passes within half mile of the power plant and extends for 3 and 9 miles either side of it. Actual area wired-off and used extends for the whole 12 miles - not just "islands" around the turbines. Overall this results in thousands of acres actually being used. In fact federal guidelines recommend more than 60 acres per turbine not the 1 acre NedPower is assuming! NedPower carefully avoided making any maps publically available; preferring for the PSC itself to be required to publish them. NedPower is now extending and clearing large areas - including widening local roads by two lanes width to support huge equipment and extensive earth moving along old logging roads. This will adversely effect run-off and environment.
Claim #7 - Project will interconnection with the existing 500kV electicity distribution line used by the Mt Storm coal fired power plant.
The State of Oregan recently banned these types of connections for wind power.
No mention was made of the special expensive switching equipment needed and the issues with cut-over that caused the State of Oregan to ban such line taps. Essentially the power plant operators have to "guess" when the wind turbines are producing enough power - and can therefore shutdown or reduce production at the coal power plant itself.
Claim #8 - Clean - NedPower Mt Storm project reduces Air Emissions:
Unfortunately again this omits to mention some critical information! First the 200 turbines cost massive amounts of emissions to build and transport - concrete, steel, aluminium, copper, and more. In fact $350M worth of emission causing construction. Then reduction is assumed to be reduction in production for the coal power plant at Mt Storm - and that as we've seen may only occur about 25% of the time, and Mt Storm is now a low-emissions coal station due to improvements to its chimney stacks! It will takes years of operation to offset the emissions debit from the project construction.
Claim #9 - Minimal impact on wildlife
This is the reason why local conservation groups are vigorously opposed to the project! No effective study was performed during major migration. Substantial local bat populations are at risk from turbines. Run-off from new access roads and construction were not assessed. Fragile mountain fauna not able to recover from the construction.
Claim #10 - Will comply with the law on Endangered Species Act and Conservation regulations and NedPower in regular contact with USFWS (and WVDNR)
NedPower made this statement - but their actions do not appear to verify this.
There has been no "take permit" requested - despite the USFWS recommending one.
Bat and bird protection recommendations from the USFWS have been ignored.
NedPowers own plan included "Step 5 - contact USFWS" - no follow-up on USFWS guidelines for wind turbine projects has been done - nor assessment / compliance with those.
Claim #11 - Migrating birds typically fly in wide corridors and at high altitude (> 400 feet above ground) - so not effected by wind turbines.
Unfortunately radar studies in the Alleghany Mountains show otherwise.
When flying over mountains - where lack of air and high winds force them down to low levels, birds are mostly found at ground level and under 400 feet (particularly migrating song birds including endangered species). Figures from California indicate that we can expect thousands of birds will be killed each year by the turbines. The tips of the rotors are moving at speeds exceeding 200 mph.
Claim #12 - Turbines barely or not audible beyond 900 yards; existing Mt Storm power plant and local traffic much noisier.
Review of the project map reveals disturbing conflicting information. Many locations site turbines within 600 yds or less of houses! Including a ring of 6 turbines directly around a popular local camping ground and recreation area where noise will be heard from 6 turbines not just one! Turbines operate continuously so noise distrubance at night when traffic and power station noise is non-existent will be particularly disruptive.
Claim #13 - NedPower expects to have 1 small light on every third turbine, as required by the FAA
This will NOT work - the area is major fly zone for Air Force navigation training flights
Each turbine will require many lights (as required by the FAA) - plus visiblity can be incredably low with reduced cloud base. Potential hazard to aircraft is real and the extra strobe lights will add a very significant light noise distrubance to local residents.
Claim #14 - The project will provide substantial work opportunities and tax revenues.
Experience shows otherwise and particularly now with new federal laws exempting wind power projects from tax obligations expected tax revenues are significantly less! NedPower themselves noted - about 15 highly skilled maintenance jobs will be made long term. These do not even sound like local workers - probably contract staff on 3 month shifts from Pennsylvania or Spain.
If NedPower was applying for this project application now in 2006/7 it would completely fail to meet new PSC guidelines - nor even be able to live up to its many inflated claims. It appears that the PSC has every ground for calling into question their original ruling.