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Panel gets close look at turbines

Members of the Community Advisory Panel for the proposed Pinnacle Wind Farm near Keyser traveled to Berlin, Pa., Monday for a neck-craning, up-close tour of a wind turbine project similar to the one planned for Green Mountain. About a dozen members of the volunteer panel were guests of US WindForce as they toured the 18-turbine Lookout Project in Somerset County, which is operated by Edison Mission Group, one of the nation's leading operators of electric power generation.

KEYSER - Members of the Community Advisory Panel for the proposed Pinnacle Wind Farm near Keyser traveled to Berlin, Pa., Monday for a neck-craning, up-close tour of a wind turbine project similar to the one planned for Green Mountain.

About a dozen members of the volunteer panel were guests of US WindForce as they toured the 18-turbine Lookout Project in Somerset County, which is operated by Edison Mission Group, one of the nation's leading operators of electric power generation.

During the tour, WindForce officials announced that if the Pinnacle project is approved by the West Virginia Public Service Commission, and moves forward to construction, Edison will likely manage the project during its operation. An Edison-related company will also oversee construction.

The 18 turbines of the Lookout Project are spread along 3-plus miles of ridge line among the rolling n hills of the southwest Pennsylvania countryside. The project began generating electricity in October.

Doug Vance, a 16-year Edison employee who manages the wind farm, said opposition to the project was relatively light, with most complaints centered on noise.

For members of the panel, who have heard similar... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

KEYSER - Members of the Community Advisory Panel for the proposed Pinnacle Wind Farm near Keyser traveled to Berlin, Pa., Monday for a neck-craning, up-close tour of a wind turbine project similar to the one planned for Green Mountain.

About a dozen members of the volunteer panel were guests of US WindForce as they toured the 18-turbine Lookout Project in Somerset County, which is operated by Edison Mission Group, one of the nation's leading operators of electric power generation.

During the tour, WindForce officials announced that if the Pinnacle project is approved by the West Virginia Public Service Commission, and moves forward to construction, Edison will likely manage the project during its operation. An Edison-related company will also oversee construction.

The 18 turbines of the Lookout Project are spread along 3-plus miles of ridge line among the rolling n hills of the southwest Pennsylvania countryside. The project began generating electricity in October.

Doug Vance, a 16-year Edison employee who manages the wind farm, said opposition to the project was relatively light, with most complaints centered on noise.

For members of the panel, who have heard similar concerns in weighing the Pinnacle project, it was a chance to stand at the base of one of the massive towers and hear for themselves the sound of a 2.1 megawatt electric turbine with 145-foot rotors spinning at 18 revolutions per minute.

The hum of the turbine was comparable to a household heat pump, while the rotors spinning about 150 feet overhead offered a repeated "whoosh" that was audible, but far from overwhelming. At no point did the group have to raise their voices to be heard.

"The noise was not nearly what I thought it would be," said Community Advisory Panel member Clyde Burdock. "And no house is going to be as close as we were; we were right under it."

Each of the towers rose 265 feet high, with the rotor blades extending their reach to about 335 feet. The towers are anchored by up to 600 yards of concrete, with a foundation pad buried 35 feet into the ground. Their cleared "footprint" among the forest varied, but most straddled the gravel access road with a half-acre or less of cleared ground at the base. Long strips had been cut into the forest at places, allowing the turbine blades to be laid out for construction while minimizing the required clearing.

A half-dozen or so landowners lease the property to Edison, and their rights
are paramount. Some owners wanted their property cleared of cut timber, others wanted the piles of vegetation left behind for animal habitat. "We try our best to keep the property owners happy," Vance said.

To that end, Edison installed a half-dozen gates along the access road and used boulders to further limit ATV access to the property. The access road itself is a smooth, gravel lane, with wide grassy shoulders.

Numerous deer foraged among the turbines during the tour. Vance said he has seen all kinds of game at the site, from black bear and turkey to bobcats and foxes. Much of the property is leased to hunting clubs.

"Another one we hear is that it will be the end of hunting," said Burdock, the panel member. "That's certainly not the case."

As for the bird kills that are a concern for every wind farm, Lookout's 18 turbines have felled six birds and one bat since April 1, Vance said. A worker from a Massachusetts-based company is on the site eight hours a day, seven days a week, checking for bird kills according to a grid laid out with wooden stakes. The count will continue for the first two years of operation, under an agreement with state wildlife officials.

Vance said workers earlier in the project had found that one turbine in particular caused virtually all of the bat kills at the site. Checking the tower, they found that water had puddled at the base, attracting mosquitoes, which drew the bats. Crews landscaped the site to eliminate the standing water, and the bat kills stopped.

Another concern registered over wind farms involves what happens when the project ends, whether in five or 50 years. Vance said Somerset County required the company to post a reclamation bond for the project to cover the cost of tear-down. WindForce officials said all projects have similar requirements, but the value of the materials used in construction - hundreds of tons of steel and miles of copper lines - virtually ensure that the towers would be taken down and salvaged for scrap.

Vance acknowledged that the wind turbines do not operate 100 percent of the time, and with the summer months coming following the October to May windy season, their production is expected to drop. Calculated against a turbine that would run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Vance said the Lookout Project probably has "capacity factor" of about 30 percent. The best wind farms are in Texas, he said, where the capacity is 40-45 percent.

Vance said Somerset County's wind-speed index, as measured by the U.S. Geological Service, is about 3 to 4 on a scale of 1-7. In Mineral County the rating is about 5. "It's a great wind index down there," he said.

Complimenting Edison for its professional management of the site, Burdock said the Mineral County Commissioners and Development Authority officials should take a tour of the Lookout Project. "As a teacher I was really impressed with it," he said. "Anyone who is against wind farms before, if they would have taken the tour, they'd be for it 100 percent."


Source: http://www.newstribune.info...

MAY 20 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/20377-panel-gets-close-look-at-turbines
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