Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Environmental Quality
Department of Environmental Quality
Small Renewable Wind Energy Projects Permit by Rule [9 VAC 15 ‑ 40]
Action Establishment of permit(s) by rule for the construction and operation of small wind energy projects
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ended on 8/20/2010
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8/20/10  2:22 pm
Commenter: Pamela C. Dodds, Ph.D., Registered Professional Geologist

Comments on the Small Renewable Wind Energy Projects "Permit by Rule"

The basis of megawatt nameplate capacity for categorizing wind projects is flawed and demonstrates a lack of understanding concerning wind power.  Residential wind turbines are designed to produce 100 kilowatts, or less, of electricity.  These wind turbines are usually less than 30 feet tall, and the excess electricity produced can be stored in batteries for later use.  Prudent use of residential wind turbines allows homeowners to greatly reduce or even eliminate the use of electricity from an electric company.  Such residential wind turbines are totally different from the industrial scale wind turbines used for communities or used in an array on, for example, a mountain ridge.  Examples of residential wind turbines can be studied on the following websites:,,, and

Industrial scale wind turbines generally have a nameplate capacity of 1.5 megawatts (such as GE wind turbines) to 2.5 megawatts (such as Clipper wind turbines) and are greater than 427 feet tall.  These wind turbines require "parasitic loads", that is, they use electricity from the grid in order to operate properly.  The following description was presented by Mr. David Friend, who is a wind developer with U.S. WInd Force, LLC, in his rebuttal testimony for Case No. 05-1740-E-CS before the West Virginia Public Service Commission: "These parasitic turbine loads include electric pitch system, yaw motors, oil heaters, oil pumps for bearings and gearbox, cooling fan for generator and turbine controller.  These components typically use 7-9kW (average) during periods when the turbines are not operating...".  This information confirms that industrial scale wind turbines cannot cause coal-fired generating plants to be shut down because the electricity produced by reliable power, such as coal-fired or nuclear, is required in order for the industrial scale wind turbines to operate at all.  Additionally, a back-up, spinning reserve is required to be available at all times.  This spinning reserve is produced by coal-fired or nuclear plants because they produce reliable electricity, whereas the electricity produced by industrial scale wind turbines is ever-changing and volatile and thus incapable of providing a spinning reserve.  Additionally, any electricity produced by industrial scale wind turbines must be used immediately; electricity from industrial scale wind turbines cannot be stored in batteries.

Therefore, the categories should be based on a more realistic division of the nameplate capacity of individual wind turbines used for different purposes: those at the residential level as distinguished from industrial scale wind turbines.

The protection of Virginia's natural resources relies on educated evaluation of the natural resources and enforcement of Virginia's environmental laws and regulations.  It is irresponsible to rely on environmental audits conducted for financial institutions or investors to provide a complete study of environmental conditions.  In the "Agency's Comments" document concerning the "Permit by Rule", it is stated that environmental audits conducted for financial institutions and investors provide sufficient environmental scrutiny to assure that "major environmental liabilities do not exist at the proposed project site."  This statement indicates a misconception that environmental audits are conducted in order to assess and protect natural resources.  In my previous position working fo an environmental consultant firm, I conducted environmental audits for financial institutions and investors and I can confirm that the intent of the environmental audit is to determine if there are any hazardous materials at the site which could create environmental concerns if they were disturbed by construction activities.  It is not the intent of an environmental audit to protect natural resources.  It is the responsibility of the DEQ to provide guidance and scrutiny of wind project construction plans and activities in order to properly assess violations and threats agains Virginia's natural resources.

As recommended by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), DEQ should require a survey conducted by the wind company to determine potential impacts not only on threatened and endangered species, ut also on Tier 1 and Tier 2 Species of Greatest Conservation Need (vertebrates only).  The reason provided by DEQ that the Tier 1 and Tier 2 Species of Greatest Conservation Need were not included in the survey requirements is that they probably would not occur in the areas where wind projects would be proposed for construction.  The likely areas proposed for wind project construction are those areas designated as having Category 3 winds. The Appalachian mountains are included as areas having Category 3 winds.  It is critical to recognize that headwater areas are located in the Appalachian mountains.  These headwater areas provide the base of the food chain necessary for downstream organisms to survive far beyond the "disturbance zone".  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided data showing that negative impacts to headwater streams in the Appalachians cause negative impacts to species in Chesapeake Bay.  EPA recommends a watershed-based approach and is mandated to show progress in this regard to Congress.  Given that DEQ limited the concern"trigger" to threatened and endangered species, stating it would be too costly to industry to establish safety for other vertebrates, the DEQ should have a study conducted or draw upon EPA data to have a realistic interpretation of the impact at the sub-watershed and larger watershed levels.  This, especially, given that the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has manuals explaining the impacts at sub-watershed and larger watershed levels.  The destruction of headwater areas results in the death of aquatic organisms which constitute the base of the food chain for the downstream vertebrates (fish, birds, etc.). 

DEQ should adopt the alternative of NO BUILD in areas where bats are known to roost in trees or hibernate in caves within a 50 mile radius of the proposed wind project and in areas within any 300 mile migratory pattern.  It has already been established in studies by bat experts that bat mortality is so great that wind projects are referenced with regard to the number of bats killed per turbine.  As many as 3,000 bats are killed annually at the Mountaineer Wind facility at Backbone Mountain, Tucker County, WV.  Thomas H. Kunz, et al (Assessing Impacts of Wind-Energy Development on Nocturnally Active Birds and Bats: A Guidance Document, Journal of Wildlife Management 71(3):2449-2486; 2007) reprots the following: "Large numbers of bats have been killed at wind-energy facilities constructed along forested ridge tops in the eastern United States (GAO 2005, Kunz et al. 2007, NRC 2007, Arnett et al. 2008).  The highest fatality rates at these facilities have ranged from 15.3 bats/MW/year at the Meyersdale Wind Energy Center, Somerset County, Pennsylvania to 41.1 bats/MW/year at the Buffalo Mountain Wind Energy Center (Fiedler 2004, Kunz et al. 2007, NRC 2007, Arnett et al. 2008).  A recent follow-up study conducted at the Buffalo Mountain site reported fatality rates of 53.3 bats/MW/year at 3 small (0.66-MW) Vestas V47 wind turbines (Vestas Wind Systems A/S, Ringkobing, Denmark) and 38.7 bats/MW/year at 15 larger (1.8-MW) Vestas V80 turbines (Fiedler et al. 2007).  Another recent study, conducted at the Maple Ridge Wind Power Project, Lewis County, New York, USA estimated bat fatalities ranging from 12.3 bats to 17.8 bats/MW/year (depending on carcass search frequency) at 1.65-MW Vestas wind turbines (Jain et al. 2007)."

Additionally, the slaughter of bats by industrial scale wind turbines cannot be mitigated because it is the mating behavior of male bats to seek the highest tree, which they perceive to be the wind turbine itself.  On their flight to the top of the industrial scale wind turbine, the male bats are slaughtered ("Causes of Bat Fatalities at Wind Turbines: Jypotheses and Predictions", Paul M. Cryan and Robert M.R. Barclay, Journal of Mammalogy, 90(6):1330-1340, 2009). 

BY eliminating the concept of metrics concerning bat mortality, the DEQ is simply ignoring current available information and allowing the wind companies a license to slaughter bats.  THis is in violation of the Code of Virginia, Section 29.1-521, which states that it is illegal to "take,... kill,... by any means whatever... any wild bird or wild animal... except as specifically permitted by law and only by the manner or means and within the number stated.

The "trigger" proposed by DEQ for mitigation concerning bat mortality is a violation of Virginia's laws protecting wildlife.  It is an obvious conclusion that lawsuits will result from such a provision in the "Permit by Rule".  Therefore, the DEQ should adopt the alternative of NO BUILD in areas where bats are known to roost in trees or hibernate in caves within a 50 mile radius of the proposed wind project and in areas within any 300 mile migratory pattern.

By the 2009 statute, DEQ is placed in the position to evaluate cumulative damage to the environment, not simply viewing each project as a deparate entity.  The U.S. Department of Energy published "20% Wind Energy by 2030" in July, 2008 (  This would require a least 200,000 industrial scale wind turbines, destroying between between 1 million to 2 million acres for construction.  The Appalachian forested ridges comprise one of the targeted areas for expanded construction.  Construction of numerous wind projects on mountain ridges within the APpalachian region of Virginia will have cumulative negative impacts on several bat species, including threattened and endangered bat species.  This is in addition to the current problem of bat mortality due to "white-nose syndrome", which is killing thousands of bats annually.  Neither a definitive cause nor a cure for this has been established yet.

The DEQ, not the wind company owner or operator must be responsible for obtaining public comments on all proposed industrial scale wind projects and provide an avenue for submittal and review of expert testimony.  The only industrial scale wind turbine project (Highland New Wind Development, Highland County) that has been presented to the Virginia State Corporation COmmission (SCC) has been debated for approximately 7 years and the project is still flawed: 1) within the past year, it was determined that the boundary between Virginia and West Virginia had not been accurately established to determine the exact location of the wind project; 2) the site plan and the sediment and erosion control plan are still deficient, according to DCR inspection reports; 3) it was determined tat an appropriate evaluation of the impact to Camp Allegheny, an important historic resource, was not conducted; and 4) there are currently lawsuits against the company because natural resources are not being protected.  It is clear that a meaningful evaluation of a wind company permit application cannot possibly be completed within the 90 day limit proposed in the "Permit by Rule". 

An ecologic unit or watershed-based approach is necessary to adequately determine the impact on natural heritage species and natural resources as a result of destruction caused by construction of industrial scale wind turbine projects.  As stated on the DCR's website concerning "The Natural Communities of Virginia Classification of Ecological Community Groups" (, the DCR is using ecological communities as a tool to manage natural resources because the DCR is responsible by statutory authority for documenting, protecting, and managing "the habitats of rare, threatened, or endangered plant and animal species, rare or state-significan communities, and other natural features" (section 10.1:209-217, Code of Virginia)."  By using this ecological community approach, it is obvious that "field surveys" limited to the zone of disturbance are inadequate to evaluate the impact of the wind project on the local ecology.  The impact area extends far beyond the disturbance zone.   

Furthermore, the DCR outlines the watershed-based approach to protect fish and widlife habitat: "Local Watershed Management Planning in Virginia" (  The DCR provides the definition of a watershed as "...all the land that drains into a given body of water.  This body of water can be a creek, pond, river or ocean.  Generally speaking, the larger the body of water, the larger its watershed.  The Chesapeake Bay watershed, for example, covers 64,000 square miles and drains from six states including 60 percent of Virginia."  (  Furthermore, the DCR's "Engineer's Toolkit - Virginia Stormwater Management Program (VSMP) Permit Regulations Effective January 29, 2005" specifies that in "4VAC50-60-50. General. Determination of flooding and channel erosion impacts to receiving streams due to land-disturbing activities shall be measured at each point of discharge from the land disturbance and such determination shall include any runoff from the balance of the watershed which also contributes to that oint of discharge."

However, the Virginia Stormwater Management Program (VSMP) Permit granted by DCR to Highland New WInd Development did not include any evaluation of the sub-watersheds into which stormwater from the project construction site will be discharged through culverts.  The DCR inspector's reports consistently reference the lack of any drainage delineations.  In a meeting with the DCR inspector, he confirmed that only the drainage areas to the culverts are being considered and that there is no consideration of the sub-watershed of the receiving stream.

The "Permit by Rule" must specify the DEP's responsibility to assure and enforce the requirements of the Code of Virginia that pertain to Virginia Erosion and Sediment COntrol (ESC) Regulations.  The DCR has allowed ongoing construction at the Highland New WInd Development wind project, even though the DCR  inspector has reported non-compliance with requirements of the ESC Regulations.  DCR has not upheld the following Virginia laws: 

"4VAC50-60-60. Water quality.

     B. Performance-based criteria. For land-disturbing activities, the calculated post-development nonpoint source pollutant runoff load shall be compared to the calculated pre-development load based upon the average land cover condition or the existing site condition.  A BMP shall be located, designed, and maintained to achieve the target pollutant removal efficiencies speciied in Table 1 to effectively reduce the pollutant load to the required level based upon the following four applicable land development situations for which the performance criteria apply..." 

"4VAC50-60-70. Stream channel erosion.

     A. Properties and receiving waterways downstream of any land-disturbing activity shall be protected from erosion and damage due to changes in runoff rate of flow and hydrologic characteristics, including but not limited to, changes in volume,velocity, frequency, duration, and peak flow rate of stormwater runoff in accordance with minimum design standards set out in this section. 

     B. The permit-issuing authority shall require compliance with subdivision 19 of 4VAC50-30-40 of the Erosion and Sediment Control Regulations, promulgated pursuant to Article 4 (10.1-560 et seq.) of Chapter 5 of Title 10.1 of the Code of Virginia.

     C. The permit-issuing authority may determine that some watersheds of receiving stream systems require enhanced criteria in order to address the increased frequency of bankfull flow conditions (top of bank) brought on by land-disturbing activities.  Therefore, in lieu of the reduction of the two-year post-developed peak rate of runoff as required in subsection B of this section, the land development project being considered shall provide 24-hour extended detention of the runoff generated by the one-year, 24-hour duration storm.

     D. In addition to subsections B and C of this section permit-issuing authorities, by local ordinance may, or the board by state regulation may, adopt more stringent channel analysis criteria or design standards to ensure that the natural level of channel erosion, to the maximum extent practicable, will not increase due to the land-disturbing activities.  These criteria may include, but are not limited to, the following:

            1. Criteria and procedures for channel analysis and classification.

             2. Procedures for channel data collection.

             3. Criteria and procedures for the determination of the magnitude and frequency of natural sediment transport loads.

              4. Criteria for the selection of the proposed natural or man-made linings." 

The DCR ( further explains that "The changes to the land surface associated with development activities will bring about significant changes to a channel's natural equilibrium.  As channels are consistently impacted with increased volume, velocity, and peak rates of flow, they will change by increasing their cross-sectional flow area to accommodate the higher flows.  This is done either through widening of the channel banks, downcutting of the channel bed, or frequently both.  Research conducted in many geographic areas has concluded that channel degratation occurs at relatively low levels of imperviousness (10-20%).  (Watershed Protection Techniques, Vol. 1, No. 3)."  Section 4VAC50-30-40.19.a of Minimum Standard 19 (MS-19) of the Erosion and Sediment Control Regulations (4VAC50-30-40.19.a) states: "Concentrated stormwater runoff leaving a development site shall be discharged directly into an adequate natural or man-made receiving channel, pipe or storm sewer system.  For those sites where runoff is discharged into a pipe or pipe system, downstream stability analyses at the outfall of the pipe or pipe system shall be performed."

DEQ will no doubt receive numerous lawsuits if the "Permit by Rule" does not cause it to enforce existing environmental laws established by the Code of Virginia.  

The "Permit by Rule" has no requirement to use Best Management Practices, which should pertain to numerous ecological untis.

The DEQ must be allowed the NO BUILD alternative.

Noise from industrial scale wind turbines is known to cause human health problems.  For human health, there must be setback limits from existing homes.  there should be sound wall requirements.  There is no mention of noise in the "Permit by Rule".

Wind data should be public information.  Wind companies typically require that the wind data from their wind project sites should be proprietary.  Data currently available to the public indicates that the wind velocities are too variable and volatile to provide meaningful amounts of dispatchable electricity.  If this is not correct, the wind companies should be proud to provide their wind data to prove that it can be meaningful.  However, wind data has only been available "under seal" so that studies could only provide generalities about the data.  So far, the generalities indicate that wind in the Appalachian mountains is not steady enough or strong enough to provide meaningful electricity.

The Economic Analysis document supporting the "Permit by Rule" is deficient.  The Economic Analysis document indicates that real estate value will increase for wind projects, but does not address the fact that most real estate is leased for this and there is no evaluation of reduction of value because people don't want property near wind projects.






CommentID: 14361