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More windmill farms coming to Somerset County

The boom for wind turbine energy projects in Somerset County is on and will continue, officials said.

Over the past few months, two companies have presented variance requests to the Somerset County Planning Commission to build meteorological towers. A meteorological tower assesses the wind. It is an initial step in the process of developing wind farms.

Several other companies from across the country have inquired about the possibility of developing wind farms in the county.

Despite all of that, there have been no formal submissions of required land development plans to erect wind energy towers since an ordinance regulating the industry was passed in April 2004. This is not a surprise to county officials, since this is a step in the process that is only undertaken “after a whole lot of due diligence has been done.”

There are a lot of up-front steps that do not involve local agencies, but involve state and federal agencies, said Jon Wahl, an engineer with Somerset Planning & Engineering Services.

For the wind projects, the land development plan is just another step in a process that takes several years. For the county, the step is crucial.

“The wind towers are not real to the county until land development plans are submitted to the planning commission,” said Bradley Zearfoss, executive... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Over the past few months, two companies have presented variance requests to the Somerset County Planning Commission to build meteorological towers. A meteorological tower assesses the wind. It is an initial step in the process of developing wind farms.
 
Several other companies from across the country have inquired about the possibility of developing wind farms in the county.
 
Despite all of that, there have been no formal submissions of required land development plans to erect wind energy towers since an ordinance regulating the industry was passed in April 2004. This is not a surprise to county officials, since this is a step in the process that is only undertaken “after a whole lot of due diligence has been done.”
 
There are a lot of up-front steps that do not involve local agencies, but involve state and federal agencies, said Jon Wahl, an engineer with Somerset Planning & Engineering Services.
 
For the wind projects, the land development plan is just another step in a process that takes several years. For the county, the step is crucial.
 
“The wind towers are not real to the county until land development plans are submitted to the planning commission,” said Bradley Zearfoss, executive director of the Somerset County Planning Commission.
 
There are 34 wind turbines operating in the county.
 
Zearfoss noted that the proposed projects may or may not come to fruition.
 
In 2004, D. Daniel Boone, a Sierra Club official, released a list of proposed and existing wind farms called “Status of Wind Plants in the Mid-Atlantic States.” Zearfoss added the number of turbines designated for Somerset County and counted a total of 186.
 
“This list is two years old and a lot of things can affect whether these projects will actually happen,” he said.
 
For example, plans to erect turbines on several properties near Sheep Ridge Road off Stutzmantown Road have been approved for more than a year by the planning commission as part of the Stonycreek WindPower LLC project.
 
However, no turbines have been erected at these locations.
 
“We are moving forward,” said James Ansell, Stonycreek WindPower developer.
 
Ansell would not comment on where the project is in the various phases it needs to go through. Stonycreek Windpower is affiliated with Generation Resources Holding Co. of Leawood, Kan., which lists three proposed county wind projects on its Web site with a combined 80-plus turbines. The Web site does not give specific locations for two remaining wind farms, other than to locate them in northern and southern Somerset County.
 
Generally, wind businesses will first look at the physical structure of a proposed location for a wind farm, such as ridge lines, and determine if it is oriented perpendicular to prevailing winds, Wahl said.
 
The companies lease land to erect meteorological towers to gather information on sustaining wind speed and wind direction.
 
“They chart patterns and quality of wind. Based on that they determine if they have a project,” he said.
 
If there is potential for a project, the wind energy businesses will lease the property where the turbines will be located, all the while doing what is necessary to fulfill local ordinances and state and federal permit requirements that focus on environmental issues from wetlands to endangered species. During this phase, the companies must submit land development plans for approval to the planning commission.
 
Then, the businesses have to also figure out how many wind turbines will be needed and order the appropriate equipment.
 
“The wind turbines musts be shuffled around until an alignment can meet the legal regulatory requirements,” Wahl said.
 
The Somerset County Planning Commission will meet next month to review variance requests from Synergics Wind Energy of Annapolis, Md., and Gamesa Energy to erect meteorological towers in Brothersvalley Township and Shade Township, respectively.
 
Synergics' tower will remain on site for at least one year and will be 265 feet tall.
 
“If the conditions are optimal, they intend to install wind turbines,” the commission's April 20 minutes state.
 
Gamesa Energy, a Spanish wind energy company, was granted a variance to erect a meteorological tower in Shade Township last fall. The company has requested a variance to erect a second meteorological tower in another area of the township and also will go before the commission for approval.
 
Gamesa representatives proposed plans to build a new wind farm on the Swallow Farm north of route 30 near Reels Corner in Shade Township. The wind farm will be a joint venture with St. Francis University and is expected to be constructed within in the next two years.
 
Moreover, Gamesa is considering putting up a number of turbines on the east side of the Quemahoning reservoir, according to Cambria Somerset Authority Chairman James Greco.
 
(Judy D.J. Ellich can be contacted at judye@dailyamerican.com.)


Source: http://www.dailyamerican.co...

MAY 20 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/2731-more-windmill-farms-coming-to-somerset-county
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