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Which way the wind blows ... Municipalities weigh locations for turbines

The winds that attract energy companies such as Gamesa to the Alleghenies also blow over pristine lands, causing a quiet controversy before local governments. Stan Kotala, a longtime member of the Juniata Valley Audubon Society, is raising concerns with local officials about possible construction of wind farms, with 400-foot- high structures, lights and constant noise, along the Blair County’s mountain ridges.

Gamesa Energy, a Spanish company, opened a 200,000-square-foot wind turbine manufacturing facility this summer in the Cambria County Industrial Park in Ebensburg.

It also recently began construction of a wind farm to produce electricity on the Blair-Cambria county line in southern Blair.

But Kotala said that is just a start.

Blair County has about 50 miles of ridge, and he thinks that Gamesa intends to construct wind farms throughout — a situation in his mind that could destroy the beauty of the area and make life unpleasant for residents.

Gamesa is aware of Kotala’s views, said Brian Lammers, Gamesa director of development for the Atlantic region.

The two have attended many meetings together, but, for the moment, Gamesa has no comment on Kotala’s point of view, Lammers said.

Most of the activity concerning Gamesa and wind energy is in Cambria County, but as Kotala told commissioners this month, a lot is happening in Blair.

For instance, the Logan Township Planning Commission has discussed possible locations of wind farms and plans to review a proposed ordinance Tuesday.

The only area of the township designated for wind farm development is Chestnut Flats, zoning officer Cassandra... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Gamesa Energy, a Spanish company, opened a 200,000-square-foot wind turbine manufacturing facility this summer in the Cambria County Industrial Park in Ebensburg.

It also recently began construction of a wind farm to produce electricity on the Blair-Cambria county line in southern Blair.

But Kotala said that is just a start.

Blair County has about 50 miles of ridge, and he thinks that Gamesa intends to construct wind farms throughout — a situation in his mind that could destroy the beauty of the area and make life unpleasant for residents.

Gamesa is aware of Kotala’s views, said Brian Lammers, Gamesa director of development for the Atlantic region.

The two have attended many meetings together, but, for the moment, Gamesa has no comment on Kotala’s point of view, Lammers said.

Most of the activity concerning Gamesa and wind energy is in Cambria County, but as Kotala told commissioners this month, a lot is happening in Blair.

For instance, the Logan Township Planning Commission has discussed possible locations of wind farms and plans to review a proposed ordinance Tuesday.

The only area of the township designated for wind farm development is Chestnut Flats, zoning officer Cassandra Schmick said.

The ‘‘windmill zone’’ is behind Horseshoe Curve extending to Route 36.

The ordinance would not allow wind farms on Brush Mountain.

Schmick said township planners heard from Kotala, Gamesa and others in putting together the recommended ordinance.

She made a point of noting that the ordinance prohibits construction of wind turbines within 2,500 feet of Horseshoe Curve to protect the sanctity of one of the area’s prized historical sites.

Testing on city land

Gamesa has an agreement with the Altoona City Authority to set up three wind testing sites, Authority General Manager Mark Perry said.

One site would be Chestnut Flats, a second would be on Brush Mountain and another at the west end of Logan Township.

Perry said he doesn’t know when meters will be installed, but testing won’t involve clearing land or constructing roads.

‘‘We don’t want to do anything that would impact the environment,’’ Perry said.

After testing is completed, Gamesa can propose to the authority where it wants to construct generators.

Agreeing to testing ‘‘does not commit the authority to move forward with a wind farm,’’ Perry said.

Townships concerned

Frankstown Township officials told Kotala that their ordinances prohibit construction of 400-foot-high wind turbines.

Blair, Juniata and Greenfield townships have studied the wind farm questions and come up with regulations.

Because it has zoning, Logan Township has the power to designate an area where it will permit windmill construction.

‘‘What we’re doing is forming a new zone of top of existing zones,’’ Schmick said.

One of Logan’s neighboring townships, Allegheny, which has no zoning, will have to rely on existing ordinances with setback regulations. Otherwise, it might have to consider adopting new rules to control windmills.

A map designed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory indicates that Brush Mountain is considered a “good to superb” location for windmills.

What can county do?

By meeting with Blair County commissioners, Kotala hopes to take the issue to a higher level.

Commissioners Chairman Barry Wright said Kotala wanted commissioners to discuss with county planner Richard T. Haines the possibility that wind farm construction in many areas is counter to the commission’s new comprehensive plan.

‘‘Right now, we are not doing anything but talking to Dick Haines,’’ Wright said.

The nine-member county planning group reviews all development in the county and issues a finding of whether it is consistent or not with the comprehensive plan.

A funding of inconsistency does not necessarily doom a project, but it represents a hurdle developers must clear before moving ahead.

‘‘I think he [Kotala] has a point,’’ Wright said. ‘‘I would think there may be areas I wouldn’t want to see harmed.’’

kstephens@altoonamirror.com


Source: http://www.altoonamirror.co...

JUL 30 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/3708-which-way-the-wind-blows-municipalities-weigh-locations-for-turbines
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