The “Rocky Forge wind farm to use advanced generation turbines” article in the November 18 issue of The Herald includes Apex’s claim about the amount of electricity that will be generated: “The newer turbines at Rocky Forge will produce 75-MW during peak operations, enough to power 21,000 homes.” But, how true is this statement?
Obviously the most important factor in generating electricity with wind turbines is the speed and duration of the wind. And yet Apex has continually refused to divulge the wind data to support their claim. But, here are some facts that will help determine the real contribution that Rocky Forge will make to electric power requirements:
In 2019 Virginia used 118.4 Terawatt Hours (TWH) of electricity. NOTE: 1 TWH = 1,000 GWH; 1 GWH = 1,000 MWH.
The maximum output of Rocky Forge is 75 Megawatts (MW).
Electricity generated by Rocky Forge will be distributed by PJM Interconnection (the organization that coordinates regional electricity distribution), and for wind power, PJM uses a capacity factor of 14.7 percent. The capacity factor means that PJM only expects Rocky Forge to produce 75 MW 14.7 percent of the time (due to the wind not blowing all the time or not fast enough).
Using the 75 MW and 14.7% capacity factor, Rocky Forge will generate 96.6 Gigawatt Hours (GWH) per year (75 MW * .147 * 24 hrs per day * 365 days per yr / 1000 MW/GW).
The average electricity used by a home in Virginia is 13.4 MWH per year, so 21,000 homes use 281.4 GWH in a year.
These values show that if Rocky Forge could produce electricity at the PJM capacity factor it would only produce enough electricity for 21,000 homes for 125 days, or only 0.082% of the total annual usage in Virginia. The 2019 Executive Order by Governor Northam specifies that at least 30 percent of the electricity used by the state will come from renewable sources by 2030. This means that you would need to build 368 projects like Rocky Forge in ten years to meet that goal. Every mountain ridge in Virginia would be destroyed. And of course when the wind is not blowing, where will the electricity come from?
Our pristine mountain ridgelines are priceless and not renewable. There are other energy sources – both renewable and not – that are less destructive to our local environment than wind turbines. Given that none of the Rocky Forge electricity produced will actually be used by Botetourt County, is Rocky Forge really worth the damage it will cause to Botetourt County?