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Windfarm Bringing Jobs to West Virginia

December 3, 2009

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia is known for its coal industry, but as the country changes to new kinds of electrical generation, some state residents are getting work in the new, green-power industry. A researcher at Johns Hopkins estimates that the Beech Ridge Wind Project, near the border of Greenbrier and Nicolas counties, could ultimately generate as many as 1,000 jobs, directly and indirectly.

Johnny Burns is a heavy equipment operator and a member of Operating Engineers, Local 132. Burns has been one of the 200-member construction crew. He says he's glad to have a job where he doesn't have to leave the area.

"Lots of times you have to go away to do it. This one is one of the closest jobs I've had to home in a long time. Made me happy, made my wife happy."

Opponents of wind farms, including Beech Ridge, have pointed to reports that the windmills could kill birds and bats. The industry argues that the problem is avoided by putting the wind farms in the right places and using the right technology.

Burns says the construction managers have tried to keep their impact down - for instance, by saving many of the removed trees.

"He instructed us to place the stumps root-system down, so they would sprout back."

Some local people have objected to what they say will be the impact on the scenery. Burns says not everyone feels that way.

"In my opinion, they're beautiful to look at."

Burns says it looks like the wind turbines will start going on-line this spring. Even when construction is finished, the wind farm will employ a maintenance crew for decades, as long as it generates power.



Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV