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Sunbury firms plan wind, solar test projects

Two related startup companies in Sunbury plan test projects to determine the feasibility of community wind farms and solar panels to generate electricity in the Susquehanna Valley.

Penn Wind and PA Solar are partnering with the German firm Juwi on the projects, according to Justin Dunkelberger, an engineer who started the two companies.

Three 180-foot-tall meteorological towers – two in Northumberland County and one in Schuylkill County – will be erected next month on rural ridge tops to obtain wind data, Dunkelberger said. They will resemble cell-phone towers, not wind turbines, he said.

Dunkelberger, who formerly worked with the L. Robert Kimball & Associates engineering firm in the Harrisburg area, believes Penn Wind can fill a niche in the state for community wind farms that consist of four to six turbines.

“They would be a little bit easier for people to swallow” than wind farms with 20 to 25 turbines, he said.

Data from the test towers would be available in about a month, but Dunkelberger said investors usually want up to two years’ worth of data to review before deciding whether to back a project.

Also next month, PA Solar will be placing test solar panels on unused land near Hughesville High School in Lycoming County to determine how much electricity could be generated, Dunkelberger said.

Should a larger solar project prove feasible, it could provide a source of revenue for the East Lycoming School District and have an educational benefit for students, school Superintendent David Price said.

The electricity generated by the solar panels would be sold to PPL Corp., but the school district would get a fee for use of its land, Price said. State grant money might be available for science programs that deal with solar power, he added.

Juwi, which has projects in Europe, will provide expertise, engineering and help with site selection for projects, Dunkelberger said. Renewable energy is “something I feel very strongly about,” he said when asked what prompted him to start Penn Wind and PA Solar.

BY John Beauge
For The Patriot-News