HNWD in Highland County - Myths Corrected

It is an understatement to say that HNWD has been a controversial project since the first permit was applied for in 2003. All would agree that groups opposed to windpower in general and HNWD in particular have proliferated both locally and nationally. Taken together, these groups comprise a well-organized national special interest group. They claim special status through a variety of interests including various aspects of the local environment and economy. These are reasonable interests, and HNWD does not begrudge them of anyone.

However, these special interest groups have adopted, in large part, an anti-wind ideology that is unreasonable. Many of the public statements you may have heard are simply myth. Here we list most of those myths and try to dispel them under the bright ( wind-powered) light of reason.

MYTH: Highland County is wilderness and should remain so
FACT: Highland County is working land,
a vast collection of mostly private properties. HNWD believes that each of them, at some reasonable level, should be allowed to work, produce, participate, and prosper in the national economy.

MYTH: Only Highland County should decide if windpower should be built here
FACT: Windpower is a national or even planet-wide priority,
far larger than the local priorities of opposition special interest groups.

MYTH: Highland County has never had so intrusive an industry
FACT: Highland County has a centuries-long history of profit-making extractive industries:
farming, mining, grazing, hunting, sugaring, and logging. All of the County has been logged, and many of its hollows once had railroad tracks for transporting cut timber. Windpower would be the most renewable and least intrusive industry ever to grace the County.

MYTH: Windpower kills huge numbers of birds
FACT: The national average of bird kills per wind turbine per year is in the low single digits.
You may find a short survey article with summary bird mortality data and references useful.

Bird, and particularly raptor, mortality was found to be high at the Altamont, CA windpower site (reference). Altamont bird mortality has been shown to be anomalous, however. Any balanced approach to bird mortality must extend to national data or, in the case of HNWD, to Appalachian data. A summary of studies by region shows very low wind turbine bird mortality across the North American continent.

Numerous studies have shown that enormous numbers of birds are killed by human activities and collisions with human structures other than wind turbines. The above-referenced survey article tallied this toll at one to four million birds per day! A similar list extends the tally further.

Bird mortality from wind turbines is, by comparison, trivially low. The National Wind Coordinating Committee (NWCC) completed a review of wind turbine bird mortality and concluded that "data collected outside California indicate an average of 1.83 avian fatalities per turbine (for all species combined), and 0.006 raptor fatalities per turbine per year. Based on current projections of 3,500 operational wind turbines in the US by the end of 2001, excluding California, the total annual mortality was estimated at approximately 6,400 bird fatalities per year for all species combined."

HNWD will be the first electric generation facility of any type required under its state permit to perform daily surveys for bird and bat mortality for the life of the project. However, HNWD will take this concern even further; bird mortality will be tallied publicly and promptly on this website. We expect bird mortality tallies to be insignificant.

MYTH: HNWD will cause significant deforestation
FACT: The HNWD site is a bald that has been used as a cowpasture for generations.
Deforestation on the HNWD site is insignificant, far less than that caused by local farms, pastures, fencing, power lines, buildings, houses and roads.

MYTH: HNWD will destroy the habitat of the endangered northern flying squirrel
FACT: The northern flying squirrel has never been found on the HNWD site.
The site is a bald, and the red spruce that the northern flying squirrel requires as habitat does not exist there.

MYTH: HNWD will cause unbearable noise
FACT: Wind turbines are not silent, but they are reasonably quiet.
Anyone who visits the nearby windfarms in WV can listen for themselves.

Most importantly, the wind itself makes noise, and unless you are very close to a wind turbine you generally cannot hear it for just this reason. A YouTube video demonstrates this:


We hasten to point out that HNWD is on a working ranch where the owners live and work. They themselves will be the windfarm's closest neighbors, and they have no concerns for the potential sound levels.

MYTH: HNWD will lower property values throughout Highland County
FACT: Windpower has a proven track record of negligible impact on property values
as demonstrated in Effect of Wind Development on Local Property Values by the Renewable Energy Policy Project.

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