Library from Pennsylvania
Plans for a proposed 36-turbine wind farm in Bear Creek Township hit another snag for Energy Unlimited Inc. The state Supreme Court decided to not hear the company's appeal for the front 25 turbines. In February, Commonwealth Court upheld township supervisors' assertion that the EUI's plans were too incomplete. Project Manager Ed Shoener said the company will refile its preliminary plan with the township to move the project forward.
The fate of a proposed amendment to the county zoning ordinance as it pertains to wind energy is in the hands of the Lycoming County commissioners, who will vote on the amendment on Nov. 15. The commissioners Monday hosted a public hearing at Pennsylvania College of Technology to hear comments about the amendment, which, if approved, would allow commercial electricity-generating wind turbines by right in resource protection, agriculture and countryside zoning districts.
The county seized Highpoint from a Lancaster County developer in hopes it would become part of an approximately 725-acre heritage park. A jury is expected to convene at a yet-unscheduled date to determine how much the county will have to pay for it. With the price expected to be so high, Grove would support the construction of more than three dozen windmills on the riverside property to generate money for the county, he said. Besides paying for Highpoint, selling the electricity could help the county keep property taxes under control in the future. ...When it comes to Highpoint, Grove's idea for the property would represent perhaps the most radical change. Its stunning view of the Susquehanna River and surrounding countryside were the primary reasons Mitrick and Kilgore approved seizing it for the park project.
Clean energy, no greenhouse gases, less dependence on foreign oil, guaranteed revenue for Tyrone - what's the catch? Well, there are many definite and possible catches. Gamesa promises no negative impacts to Tyrone's drinking water, but I wonder if they can really build all of those giant wind turbines without erosion taking place. There is always the possibility of an accident as well. According to Stan Kotala, spokesperson for the Juniata Valley Audubon Society, the small environmental gain from building the windmills would be offset by a huge ecological cost. Sandy Ridge has been identified as an Important Bird Area and a greenway. The wind turbines threaten birds and building them causes forest fragmentation. Mayor Kilmartin points out in his analysis, "... the structures will take up the ridge tops that people so tremendously love about this community." And these are big structures, too. One can't really comprehend their 450-foot height until you get close.
Council members Thursday voted 3-1 to adopt an ordinance to restrict the use of windmill turbines, big and small, to get "some degree of regulation on the books" before requests come in. The ordinance establishes restrictive regulations both for commercial wind energy facilities - with towers 300 feet or higher and huge turbine blades - and for small turbines that generate 60 kilowatts or less primarily drawn by the property on which it is located. "I would not want Mount Nittany to have wind turbines on top of it," councilman Daniel Klees said. "I look at this as being a starting point. I'm confident about being a little more restrictive now because we haven't had a request."
Those speaking Monday during a public hearing regarding a proposed change to Lycoming County's zoning ordinance as it pertains to wind energy will have to follow conduct guidelines. On Thursday, the Lycoming County commissioners adopted the new rules. ...If approved, the [zoning] amendment would allow commercial electricity-generating wind turbines in resource protection, countryside and agricultural zoning districts by right.
Recent articles, stated the project will enhance the water quality at this site. Also, Gamesa states that protecting natural resources and wildlife is a "shared priority" with the community. If this is so, then why was there a rattlesnake study of the area done in November (when snakes are hibernating)? Why did Gamesa do a study on bird migration in July, when bird migration doesn't start until late August, September and October? How does bringing in large equipment to clear-cut the forest and building new roads improve water quality of streams that are already of the highest quality in the state?
Justin Dunkelberger, chief executive officer of Penn Wind LLC, said his company entered into an "exploratory agreement" with the county last year to examine the feasibility of using wind-powered turbines to generate electricity on Burnside Mountain near Gowen City. After a year of testing, he went before the county commissioners Tuesday to request a lease agreement so his company can begin construction next year. ...Penn Wind LLC, based in Sunbury, is a joint venture of DGP Power and Juwi GmbH and was founded in March 2006 to find and develop land to create wind and solar energy. Mr. Dunkelberger said they already have secured several sites across the country, including land in New York, Ohio, Maryland, Iowa and Kansas.
Tyrone Mayor James Kilmartin is asking the community to provide its input on the potential wind farm. Gamesa will be hoping to receive the borough's decision at the next council meeting November 13. "I want the community's response," said Mayor Kilmartin. "These wind mills will be up there for almost 30 years. These are 300 foot structures, then another 150 feet with the blades, so it's a 450 foot structure that's going to be on top of our ridge tops." ...He continued, "Years ago somebody made the decision to bring in low income housing and we went overboard on that, so now we're reaping some of the negative fruits of that decision. We want to look at this wind mill decision very systematically."
I made a trip up to Blue Knob today, in response to a constituent complaint to hear and see the new wind turbines located along the mountain top. ...It was a windy day and the blades were really moving. The complaint we received was about how disruptive the noise was. I agree after going to the site myself that the noise is disturbing and certainly carried to the home of the people who contacted me. I was also surprised at the ground area needed to facilitate the turbines, which includes a wide road cut into the woods. There needs to be more discussion on the placement of these structures and their effect not only on the environment but on the people who live close by.
After more than an hour of public testimony - most of it opposed to the proposed AES wind farm project in Tioga and Bradford counties - the Tioga County Planning Commission tabled any action, pending further review. AES's application to build 124 wind turbines on more than 10,000 acres of leased private property on top of Armenia Mountain has been submitted to the commission, but because it is "incomplete," Tioga County Planner Jim Weaver recommended to the board that it be tabled to give AES more time to get the required documentation.
There was more talk about a possible wind farm of 10-15 windmills on property owned by the borough on Ice Mountain. Josh Framel, from Gamesa Energy USA (Gamesa), and Mr. Dennis Beck, Manager of the Portage Water Authority and their forester, Mike Barton, gave a power point presentation of the wind farm on the Portage watershed to show the environmental friendly aspects of the project. Mayor James Kilmartin and the rest of council decided they would need more time to make a decision on whether or not the borough would be interested in moving forward with the possible wind farm project with Gamesa.
Commonwealth Court cleared the way Friday for part of a wind farm in Bear Creek Township, but the alternative-energy project remains on hold until the state Supreme Court rules on the other part of the plan. Senior Judge Joseph McCloskey upheld orders by Luzerne County Judge Michael Conahan and the Bear Creek Township Zoning Hearing Board, allowing nine out of 35 wind turbines proposed for Energy Unlimited Inc.'s Penobscot Mountain wind farm.
COUDERSPORT — Potter County Planning Commission members took steps to regulate the construction of wind turbines in the county Tuesday night during a lengthy meeting. After hearing arguments from supporters and critics of the wind energy industry, planning commission members passed an ordinance that would require that turbines be located a distance of at least seven times their height from adjacent properties.
Portage Township supervisors have adopted a residential wind turbine ordinance, a first in Cambria and Somerset counties. The Portage Township ordinance adopted last week restricts the number of turbines to one per parcel and spells out minimum setbacks. It also regulates the maximum noise levels that may be generated by turbines and establishes a permit fee.
The business community by and large opposes Rendell's plan saying it smacks too much of government mandate and letting public officials pick which businesses will be "winners" in the race to build new green technology, Barr said [an official with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry]. "I think we have to be cautious about government betting on a technology that may not be viable in 10 to 15 years," he added.
The ordinance sets minimum standards for setbacks from various features, application requirements, including environmental analyses and damage mitigation plans, and ensures money will exist to remove the turbines when the permits expire. The turbines must be at least: • 2,000 feet from any school, hospital, church or public library. • 500 feet from occupied buildings and property lines. • Five times the "hub height" from occupied buildings owned by anyone not involved in the wind park project. Hub height is defined as the distance from the ground to the top of the turbine base. • 1.1 times the "turbine height" from public roads. Turbine height is defined as the hub height, plus the distance to the highest point a turbine blade reaches.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will develop guidelines for wind turbine development in wetland and watershed areas following the quarterly board meeting in Harrisburg. The commissioners agreed during the Oct. 1 meeting not only to develop guidelines but also send a letter to Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty concerning the matter, said Len Lichvar, the District 4 commissioner. "We need to develop a full-blown policy, especially in exceptional value watersheds and wetland areas. We're charged by legislature to protect the resources of the state," he said. ..."We're more concerned with predictive studies, not necessarily post-construction studies. ..."
As with all new development, there needs to be proper guidelines and regulations that best serve the needs of residents, industry and the environment. That's a daunting task for any agency, especially when you factor in new types of massive developments and changes in technology. It's a good idea for the commission to review the policies impacted by wind turbine development.
It's time for the public to be heard. If we remain silent, we could open the door for exploitation: constant noise, day and night; irreparable damage to our groundwater resources and disruption of surface landscape; human health and safety risks - and the list goes on. We owe it to future generations not to sit idly by as the wind energy companies target Potter County. We can act today, or we can spend decades wishing that we would have.