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Laurel Mountain wind farm project moving ahead

By Staff | Apr 27, 2011

As the nation turns its eye toward clean energy, residents in Barbour and Randolph counties are seeing the wind farm project on Laurel Mountain become increasingly more visible with each passing day. Officials say the project is moving along as expected and the turbines should be operational by early summer.

John Arose, general manager of the AES project at Laurel Mountain, provided an update on the wind farm progress. Arose said 35 of the 61 turbines are already erected along the 12.5 mile stretch of Laurel Mountain crossing parts of Barbour and Randolph counties. Of the 61 turbines, Arose said 17 would be located in Randolph County and 44 would be in Barbour.

“The project is going very well,” Arose said. “We expect to get it started up in June or July. We are happy to be in Elkins. It’s a very nice community. The people are very hospitable and are treating AES and the contractors very well.”

According to Arose, the wind farm project will be economically helpful to the community. He said it has already created nearly 350 construction jobs during the initial phases and will employ 13 people once it is fully operational. He said it would also generate $450,000 in county taxes and $340,000 in state taxes, annually.

“When you look at the overall project and the economic benefits it brings to the county and the state and the jobs it is going to bring, it’s a very good project,” Arose said. “We anticipate $1.5 to $2.5 million dollars being brought into the community. We have a $1 million dollar pay roll and we are creating non-manufacturing type jobs that would not have been here if we wouldn’t have been here. And of course, the state and county taxes will be substantial.”

So far, Arose said the biggest challenge for the project has been creating the infrastructure. He said the access road to the turbines is 99 percent complete and 70 percent of the turbine foundations have been constructed.

Approximately 2,000 acres that the windmills are on are leased from landowners in Randolph and Barbour counties, while AES owns 30 acres. He said the total cost of the project is nearly $250 million.

He explained the turbine foundations use approximately 45,000 pounds of rebar and 500 yards of concrete. Blades on the windmills are 70 feet in length and a gear box behind the blades weighs 140 tons.

The power generated by the turbines will supply energy to approximately 14,000 households in the northeast region of the United States. Arose added that the power will add to the overall stability of the regional grid.

To complete the turbines, $239 million in capital has been invested, while revenue will be from energy sales and renewable energy credit sales.

AES has 25 years of experience in wind power generation projects. Aside from West Virginia, he said the company has projects in California, Oregon, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Indiana. He said the company is one of 60 companies that comprise the Dow Jones Index. He said it has 29,000 employees world-wide and more than $40 billion in assets.