Returning from a trip to Northern Virginia this week we stopped over with relatives in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. When I was invited to "go up on the mountain" to view the newly operational wind generators, I jumped at the chance. Sitting atop four mountains and their intervening ridges is a wind farm of 119 generators that stretches for some 15 miles (24 km).
Each generator stands 400 feet (120 m) tall and generates slightly more than 1.5 megawatts of electricity. The farm has a combined output of 186 megawatts (a megawatt is one million watts, or enough electricity to light ten thousand 100 watt incandescent light bulbs). The developer claims the wind farm will satisfy the electrical needs of some 50,000 households. The blades look slender and graceful as they turn slowly in the wind. But up close, they appear much bulkier.
The man and pickup truck show the great scale of one blade. The towers were assembled on site, but the developers still had to greatly widen the winding road to the mountaintop to accommodate the long trailers carrying the components. Now the maintenance crews and tourists enjoy a wide, safe access to the top. I was surprised to find we could drive up for a close view of the towers.
There was considerable local resistance to building the wind farm, primarily because people didn't want to see the towers as part of their mountain view. That position was reinforced by a lawsuit that claimed operation would result in unacceptable deaths among the endangered Indiana Bat population. Obviously each of these objections has been overruled since all units were operating when we were there.
I really don't know what, if any, effect operation of wind generators has on bat populations, but I personally don't mind seeing these white towers along the mountain top. And these are located in what I find to be one of the most beautiful areas I've ever enjoyed. The view from the mountain top over the wooded valleys and distant mountains is simply breathtaking. And they neither emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere nor produce dangerous, long-lived wastes to be managed.