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Beech Ridge Energy looks to expand Greenbrier Co. wind plant

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Updated Jan. 11 with company comments.

After a several-year cool-down period, Beech Ridge Wind Energy is looking to add 33 wind turbines to its once-controversial 67-turbine Beech Ridge Wind in Greenbrier County.

At a Jan. 10 public meeting in Rainelle, the Public Service Commission of West Virginia will take comments on the proposal.

Beech Ridge Energy, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Invenergy, first applied in 2005 to the PSC for a siting certificate to construct a $330 million, 124-turbine wind generation plant in Greenbrier County.

An unusual amount of pushback followed: thousands of letters of protest and hundreds of residents speaking out at public hearings, as well as opposition from The Greenbrier Resort.

After the PSC granted the siting certificate in August 2006, including stipulations about noise, lighting, bird and bat studies and other pre-construction conditions that had to be met, two and a half years of protest followed — going all the way to the state Supreme Court.

All of that was settled in early 2009, and the reduced facility of 67 turbines went into operation in 2010.

Beech Ridge Energy II filed its $115 million expansion plans with the PSC in August.

Greenbrier County currently receives about $400,000 per year from Beech Ridge. The expansion would take it to around $600,000, a company representative has told the Greenbrier County Commission.

"The company has been great to work with," said Greenbrier County Commission President Karen Lobban.

"It was controversial but it's pretty well accepted now, I think," Lobban said. "I look forward to the extension of more of them for the tax base that it's going to give Greenbrier County."

Invenergy said in a prepared statement that it is committed to the area's economic success.

The two projects together would provide more than $1.5 million each year in local and state tax revenue, lease payments to landowners, direct spending and staff salaries, the statement said.

Development of the expansion is subject to power market conditions and to permitting, it said.

The public hearing will take place at the Rainelle Town Hall. Written comments may be mailed to Sandra Squire, PO Box 812, Charleston WV 25323. An evidentiary hearing will begin in Charleston on Feb. 28.

The case filings may be followed on the PSC's website; subscribe to case number 12-1196.