West Virginia PSC nears decision on Beech Ridge II wind project

Parties on May 30 filed a proposed order with the West Virginia Public Service Commission that would approve Beech Ridge Energy II LLC’s new wind project in Greenbrier County, W.Va.

The order has been reviewed and agreed to by the West Virginia Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, and the staff of the PSC. This order addresses the application filed by Beech Ridge Energy II (BRE II) for a siting certificate for an additional wind turbine facility located in Greenbrier County.

BRE II filed this application in August 2012. BRE II is owned by Invenergy Wind Development North America LLC. BE II proposed to construct an approximate 53.46 (but not to exceed 85.5) MW wind facility consisting of up to 33 wind turbines, each with a rated capacity of 1.62 (but not to exceed 2.5) MW, and certain ancillary facilities on a tract located in Greenbrier County about two miles northwest of Duo and two miles east of Quinwood.

BRE II stated that although it seeks to construct only 33 turbines, it designated 33 primary sites and 14 alternate sites in order to provide maximum flexibility in selecting final locations. The number of MWs of the BRE II project combined with the operational MWs of the original Beech Ridge Energy LLC (BRE) project will be close to the previously approved 186 MW. BRE II stated that all of its studies were done as if all 47 turbines would be built, and, as such, its studies affect a greater study area than will be affected. BRE II stated the turbines would generally be placed along Beech Ridge, Clear Creek Mountain, Pollock Mountain, Huggins Ridge, and Blue Ridge, on land owned by MeadWestvaco Corp. BRE II estimated that the construction cost of the facility would be approximately $115m.

This power would move to the existing BRE substation. BRE is also an Invenergy affiliate. In the application BRE II stated the presently constructed and operating 138-kV transmission line from the BRE substation to the interconnection at the Grassy Falls substation of Monongahela Power, a FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE) company, is sufficiently sized to carry the energy produced by BRE II’s facility together with the energy produced from BRE, thus no new transmission line is necessary. BRE II also stated that an executed Interconnection Service Agreement (ISA) exists between BRE II, PJM Interconnection and Mon Power. BRE II stated that both wind projects, i.e. BRE and BRE II, will not exceed the previously allowed 186-MW interconnect as approved by the commission in the BRE case.

In the application, BRE II stated that it anticipates it will utilize a GE 1.6 100 wind turbine. However, the particular turbine model selected for the 33 turbines will be based on turbine efficiency, turbine availability, the ability to change the cut-in speeds and turbine pricing.

Original Beech Ridge project went through a lot of court proceedings

In August 2006, the commission granted the BRE siting certificate with conditions, and approved it again in a later order. The case was appealed twice to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals where the commission’s orders were affirmed. BRE began construction of wind turbines in the summer of 2009. Ultimately 67 wind turbines representing 100.5 MW were completed and have been placed into service.

Opponents of the BRE project brought federal litigation seeking to enjoin the BRE project from construction, alleging that it would “take” listed Indiana bats in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In early 2010, the U.S. District Court approved a settlement between BRE and the plaintiffs, which prohibited construction beyond 67 wind turbines until BRE had secured an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) under Section 10 of the ESA from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Beech Ridge began the process of securing the ITP in January 2010, and anticipates that a final ITP will be issued in the second quarter of 2013.

As part of a settlement and an amended order in the federal litigation in 2010, BRE was allowed to construct 33 additional wind turbines, provided they were generally on the western side of the original BRE footprint or on additional land to the west of the original footprint. It was ultimately determined that the best way to achieve this construction was through the BRE II project.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.