Library filed under Impact on Landscape from Pennsylvania
The Rendell administration is considering opening state forests and state parks to wind turbine development. Michael DiBernardinis, secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said today that a decision will be made in the next six months on what he admitted would be a controversial issue.
Aerial photo of a wind farm along the Allegheny Front in southern Pennsylvania in the United States.
A citizens' group opposed to the location of massive wind-energy plant in northern Potter County is pressuring Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell to stop the plan. However, with Gov. Rendell pushing for renewable energy projects in Pennsylvania, the "Save God's Country" (SGC) group could face an uphill struggle. An SGC spokesman said the location of wind turbines in the region is at odds with the governor's strong support for the Pennsylvania Wilds tourist promotion plan. "Are hundreds of industrial wind turbines something that will tempt people to visit the Pennsylvania Wilds?" asked Dan Howe. "It seems incongruous, and yet this is what is happening in Potter, Cameron, McKean, Lycoming and Tioga counties, all designated as the Pennsylvania Wilds."
Facing criticism from landowners and local agencies over a proposed wind farm on Shaffer Mountain, Gamesa officials are working to dispel what they say is incorrect information being spread about the project. "We feel that the wind farm will be a positive for the community. People have some fears, some concerns about the project and we're going to reach out to the public in the coming months," said Ellen Lutz, Gamesa's director of development for the Atlantic region. The 30-turbine wind farm, which is projected to extend through parts of Shade and Ogle townships in Somerset County and Napier Township in Bedford County, has been subject to extensive studies by Gamesa and should meet environmental standards, company officials have said. However, allegations by local landowners that the project will ruin a spring that feeds a New Paris fish hatchery have been of particular concern to the company. "Our geotechnical testing of the area showed we would not disrupt any underground water supplies," Lutz said.
Windber Area Authority members voted to oppose a wind turbine project slated for the Shaffer Mountain area over concerns that the watershed will be negatively impacted. However, the move was largely ceremonial as the authority's legal right to restrict operations on the watershed land have already been enacted, solicitor James Cascio said during Wednesday's meeting. The authority, under a 1989 land use agreement with primary landowner Berwind Natural Resources Corp., of Philadelphia, has only the right to approve or approve with written conditions the terms of any use that would impact the watershed, he said. In January, the authority asked in writing for restrictions and specifications of the project regarding the watershed, and the developer, Gamesa Energy USA, has complied with that initial request, he said. At the time, the authority's main concern was the proximity of several turbines to authority wells.
PAINT BOROUGH - Borough council members are going on record to oppose the proposed wind turbine project along Shaffer Mountain. Council member Walter Drzal said he was approached by the Ogle Township supervisors and others to officially oppose the project. “These people know we went on record opposing the landfill in Paint Township, so I feel that we should go on record opposing the construction of windmills in the watershed and recharge area,” he said. He said that the windmills themselves do not pose a threat to the watershed, but the land clearance and construction of access roads disrupts the natural flow of water into the recharge area. “Nature is all intertwined. When you disrupt the water flow, you disrupt the habitats of plants and animals,” he said. Gamesa Energy, USA is the company responsible for the wind turbine project. The majority of the planned windmills would be located on land owned by Berwind Natural Resources Corp., of Philadelphia. Council members passed a motion to send a letter in opposition of any development in the watershed and recharge area to the Somerset Conservation District, Pa. Fish Commission, Department of Environmental Protection and the Berwind Natural Resources Corp.
What is happening to God’s creations in Penn’s Woods? Berry and Mahantango mountains in upper Dauphin County and Cove Mountain in Perry County have come under attack by developers. Once developments or projects take up residence in those areas, woodlands with their flora and fauna will be lost forever. As the woodlands are gobbled up, maybe Pennsylvania should change its name, since the “sylvania” is Latin for woods. Why is it that out-of-the area developers/entrepreneurs are the ones who want to change the local landscapes?
I strongly agree with Laura Jackson’s recent letter pointing out that the ecological costs of industrial windfarms on Pennsylvania’s forested ridgetops far exceed their benefits. These costs include massive forest fragmentation to construct and maintain the 400-foot tall turbines, scalping of ridgetops to develop heavy-duty roads for maintenance, and further carving of the forest for the construction of substations and transmission lines. In addition to this large-scale forest destruction, there’s also the huge problem of bat deaths due to turbine blades, to the extent of 50-100 bats killed per turbine per year in forested ridgetop settings. Proponents of ridgetop windfarms attempt to justify forest fragmentation and direct mortality of bats and birds by claiming that there will be a significant reduction in greenhouse gases as a result of windfarm operation. The reality is that it would require 4,000 industrial-scale wind turbines covering 500 miles of the commonwealth’s ridgetops to meet just 10 percent of Pennsylvania’s energy needs. On the Keystone State’s forested ridgetops, the huge ecological costs of industrial windfarms far exceed their small environmental benefits.
Another announcement of plans to build a large wind farm along a Pennsylvania ridgetop brings additional emphasis to the urgent need for the state to enact a windmill-siting protocol. Failure to do so threatens to dramatically alter Pennsylvania’s ridge and valley landscape to a degree not seen since the 19th-century lumber barons denuded Penn’s Woods.
Water company leaders say they will not oppose wind power development above supply wells, if the developer agrees to certain rules. “I truly believe the windmills don’t pose a significant risk to the water supply, if managed correctly,” geologist James Casselberry told Windber Area Authority Wednesday.
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.
Don’t let wind companies get away without regulation. Wind turbines are very, very inefficient and will do little to help our energy problem, reduce the need for coal generated energy, or curb global warming. What will work is a statewide energy conservation program in addition to common sense in siting wind turbines. Appropriate places would include urban settings and industrial parks.
Kittatinny Ridge is at the forefront of a conservation effort aimed at preserving its character as a wilderness corridor; the effort will be adapted to other areas such as the Northcentral Highlands and Laurel Highlands where the Appalachian Mountains run their course. There are plenty such places in Pennsylvania with its alternating terrain of ridges and valleys.
This is a comprehensive, well documented and thoughtful presentation on a wide range of industrial wind issues by Dan Boone, Consulting Conservation Biologist, at the public meeting held by Save Our Allegheny Ridges in Bedford, PA on September 18, 2006
In many ways, the atmosphere is like a gold rush. With the backing of an enthusiastic Rendell administration, wind-energy companies have quietly but aggressively been negotiating leases for land on mountaintops, especially in Bedford and Somerset counties. Several developers hope to build hundreds, if not thousands, of windmills on the ridge lines of west-central Pennsylvania. Typical wind turbines stand nearly 375 feet tall -- about 70 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty -- and can be seen from 15 to 20 miles away. Some people question whether development of wind energy on this scale is appropriate for Pennsylvania, even though wind often is touted as a renewable, nonpolluting way to generate electricity. Longtime residents of Somerset County, where the building is more advanced, say the construction and operation of turbines have damaged the environment. They say the development offers little in return from jobs or taxes. "It's not quite what they tell you in the brochure," Todd Hutzell of Rockwood said.
BEDFORD — Three years ago, Todd Hutzell of Rockwood thought Sand Spring Mountain in Somerset County provided one of the region’s most beautiful views. Now with 20 wind turbines lining the mountain just down the road, he has a much different view. “It doesn’t matter how far you go from them. You can see them,” Hutzell. Hutzell and his sister, Karen Ervin, spoke to about 200 Bedford County residents Monday night at a meeting of Save Our Allegheny Ridges, a nonprofit group formed last year to educate residents about the negative aspects of wind turbines.
There are many places where it [wind energy] can work and not be intrusive. But it's not for everywhere. It doesn't belong on ridgetops where it will destroy the "viewshed" and foul the wilderness quality of the last large undeveloped tract in the region.
Proponents of the Little Equinox Mountain wind facility say it will create jobs, create tax dollars, and enhance tourism. Your readers in Manchester, Vt. might be interested to know how that argument played out when FPL Energy similarly invaded our community in 2004
Jon Boone's response, published in The Caledonian Record in August 2005, to those who challenged the authenticity of his DVD "Life Under a Windplant".