Library filed under Zoning/Planning from Pennsylvania
It’s called the Allegheny Plateau, a wide span of ridges stretching across west-central Pennsylvania and then south into West Virginia. The wind patterns and terrain characteristics of the plateau make it the primary reason why Cambria and Somerset counties soon will be home to more than 500 new windmills during the next few years, with predictions of more on the horizon. That number is in addition to the 34 existing turbines in Somerset County and includes the 90 proposed for the Allegheny Ridge.
An Arlington, Va.-based company is pursuing the development of a wind farm on Armenia Mountain in Bradford and Tioga counties. “It’s in the neighborhood of (about) 150 megawatts in size, which would put it somewhere between 60 to 75 turbines, depending on what size turbines we use,” Bob White, project director with AES of Arlington, Va., said. The wind farm would generate electricity to be sold to a Pennsylvania utility company. White said the total acreage that is needed for the turbines is estimated to be 150 acres.
In an effort to limit bat and bird kills by windmills, the Pennsylvania Game Commission yesterday suggested a voluntary agreement with wind-farm developers. The proposal is an “intermediate step” in protecting birds and bats from the whirling blades, said William A. Capouillez, director of the Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management. “It’s not quite where we want to be from a regulatory standpoint, but it’s better than what we have now,” he said. “No other state has anything similar.” The Game Commission is charged with protecting all the state’s wildlife.
On Monday, county Judge Nancy L. Butts heard arguments by lawyers involved in Laurel Hill Wind Energy LLC’s appeal of the county Zoning Hearing Board’s ruling to deny it a special exception to build a wind farm in northern Lycoming County. According to courtroom spectator Maureen Wroblewski, Butts will need saint-like wisdom to make her decision whether to uphold or overturn the board’s ruling. “I wouldn’t want to be in her position,” Wroblewski said. Butts also will have to be a prolific reader.
The crowd of more than 65 people took time to criticize companies like Berwind Corp., of Philadelphia, which has been involved in numerous mining operations, landfill projects and wind turbine sites in the region. Joseph Cominsky, of Windber, cited Berwind as the primary landowner in a Shaffer Mountain wind turbine project he is actively opposed to.
With a company ready to buy its wind power for the next two decades, PPM Energy LLC on Monday announced plans to begin construction on a 23-turbine wind development in the summer. About a third of the proposed 1.5-megawatt wind turbines in the Casselman Wind Power Project are to be built on reclaimed surface-mining areas. The project encompasses nearly 2,000 acres near Rockwood and Meyersdale – though the “footprint” of used land should be less than 40 acres.
A Lycoming County judge has lots of reading to do before she decides whether a $100 million wind farm should be allowed on a ridge. Judge Nancy L. Butts said yesterday she plans to read the 26 volumes of transcripts from the 16 months of hearings conducted by the county zoning hearing board before deciding an appeal by Laurel Hill Wind Energy. The Rutland, Vt., company wants to install 35 turbines in Jackson and McIntyre townships. It is appealing the 3-2 decision by the zoning board that denied the special exception needed to build the wind farm. The state advocates development of alternative energy, said Thomas C. Marshall, who represents Laurel Hill. He argued that it would not cause significant damage to the area or wildlife and that there is no evidence the turbines will violate a noise ordinance. Zoning board solicitor Karl K. Baldys said the massive project would leave a big footprint in an area zoned for minimum development.
Windber Area Authority members are looking into the impact a proposed wind farm will have on an area watershed. The board agreed Wednesday to ask geologist James Casselberry to begin studying how the construction of 38 wind turbines along Shaffer Mountain could affect water quality for authority customers. “If in fact there is a threat, the best way to find out is to talk to a hydrologist,” said solicitor James Cascio.
A sprawling wind farm under construction on the Cambria-Blair county line may grow larger. Terry Nicol of Gamesa, project developer for the wind farm, told Cresson Township officials Thursday night that a third phase of the project is being looked at for 2008 — bringing the number of turbines to as many as 90.
Cresson Township officials learned Thursday night just how big Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm LLC will become. By 2008, 90 electricity-generating wind turbines will line a 13-mile stretch through the Mainline area and into Blair County. Phase One of the windmill development already under construction is 40 turbines in the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm LLC in Portage, Washington, Cresson, Greenfield and Juniata townships. As that construction nears completion, work will begin on the second phase – 35 windmills called North Allegheny Wind Farm LLC, Terry Nichols, a representative of Gamesa USA, told officials.
Supervisors continued to discuss details to the township’s model ordinance on the regulation and installation of wind turbines at Monday night’s meeting. The board voted to establish a more stringent ordinance at the Nov. 6 meeting because of concerns expressed by township residents and property owners regarding the regulation of the structures. For the past several months, the board has been collecting information on the impact wind turbines may have on the environment and residents’ health. The county planning commission has approved plans for Gamesa Energy USA and Shaffer Mountain LLC to install five wind turbines in Ogle Township. Three turbines plan to be erected on Berwind Natural Resources Corp., property and two turbines on Harvey and Harriet Bear property. Supervisors continued to listen to residents’ concerns Monday night.
Vermont-based Laurel Hill Wind Energy Co., whose proposed wind farm project in northern Lycoming County was shot down when the county Zoning Hearing Board denied its application for a special exception, will soon get its day in court. According to Robert Charlebois, managing director of parent company Catamount Energy Corp., of Rutland, Vt., arguments will be presented in the courtroom of county judge Nancy Butts at 9 a.m. next Monday. The company originally proposed building 47 388-foot-high electricity-generating wind turbines along a seven-mile section of ridgeline in McIntyre and Jackson townships zoned either for agriculture or resource protection. The company later agreed to reduced the scope of the project to 35 turbines and relocate some of them in an effort to reduce the impact on the area.
A dispute over whether an energy company should be allowed to put 25 wind turbines in Bear Creek Township is now in the hands of Commonwealth Court. The court heard about 20 minutes of arguments Monday on whether a Luzerne County judge erred earlier this year when he overturned a decision by township supervisors not to issue a permit to Energy Unlimited to erect the turbines. In May, township supervisors voted 2-1 against a plan to install the turbines on Penobscot Mountain because they felt Energy Unlimited had substantially changed its development plans since first proposing the wind farm in 2003. The company went to court over the rejection, convincing Luzerne County President Judge Michael Conahan to overturn the supervisors’ decision. That prompted the supervisors to appeal to Commonwealth Court.
Wind energy projects in Shade Township have a more stringent regulation to comply with when proposing the development of wind energy facilities with in the township. At Thursday night’s meeting, supervisors approved the township’s ordinance on the regulation of wind turbines. Since summer, supervisors have discussed establishing an ordinance for the township and have heard concerns from residents and property owners over the potential effects the towers may have on residents’ health and welfare and the environment. “The board decided to regulate wind turbines to protect property owners and citizens of the township,” said supervisors Chairman John Topka. “The regulation is not to stop wind turbines from coming into the township. It’s just a lot easier to deal with them now,” he said.
An area property owner addressed the Tioga County commissioners with concerns about the possibility of wind turbines coming to the Covington area. According to Reilly, who lives in Milford, Pike County, a test turbine has been erected near his 200-acre parcel in Covington Township. “I am here as a property owner concerned about windmill powered generators in the Covington area,” he said. Reilly read a list of objections he has to the alternative energy source being pushed by Gov. Ed Rendell to help make 20 percent of the state’s energy production environmentally friendly by 2017.
Over the past two weeks, and as recently as Thursday, county planners have approved a Spanish wind turbine manufacturer’s first formal submission of required land development plans to erect 38 wind turbines in Ogle and Shade townships. “Tim Vought from Gamesa Energy USA and Shaffer Mountain submitted the plans here,” said planner William Lehman of the Somerset County Planning Commission. County regulations allow up to 10 days to approve minor land development plans, he said. Gamesa’s Shaffer Mountain project involves 34 windmills. Twenty-five are to be constructed on Berwind Natural Resources Corp. property, including 22 in Shade Township and three in Ogle Township.
About a mile into the woods on the Altoona side of Skyline Drive near Route 36, Gamesa Energy has placed a slender 100-foot tower to test the wind. The little spinning anemometers at 50, 75 and 100 feet are like a child’s toys. But, if the winds are favorable during the next three months, the 40 windmills the company may ask to place on nearby Chestnut Flats will be much bigger. The three blades each may be 140 feet long, occupying an area while spinning the size of a football field — reaching at their apex a height of 440 feet, said Erik Foley, director of the Center for Collaborative Conservation at St. Francis University in Loretto. Gamesa paid the Altoona City Authority $8,000 for up to three test sites on about 10,000 acres, but it plans only one for now.
Developers of a proposed windmill farm are asking local officials to approve a reassignment of their development rights approved last year. Cresson Township supervisors say they want more information about what is planned before taking another step. Supervisor Scott Decoskey said the board wants to know the proposed locations and how many turbines will be built in the township by Gamesa Corp., the Spain-based company developing the North Allegheny Wind Farm.
The spinning blades of wind turbines can help power a town and save energy, but the high cost of buying and installing them has stopped Perkasie from churning forward. The Upper Bucks borough considered buying wind turbines, but after meeting with officials from electrical utility giant Exelon Corp., PECO Energy’s parent company, Perkasie officials decided that wind-generated energy might be too expensive — at least for now.