October 13, 2006

Borough won't see turbines 'til 2008

PINE GROVE – If a Spanish turbine energy manufacturer is satisfied with its survey of the area, a commercial-sized wind farm could be built on Second Mountain in 2008.

That’s what Peter K. Kennon, project developer with Gamesa Energy USA LLC, Philadelphia, indicated at the Pine Grove borough council meeting Thursday.

“We’re still in the discovery/investigation stage, which is a long stage,” Kennon said. “We’ve got a lot of information about particulars, but not enough to draw plans up yet.”

During his five-minute project update, Kennon offered some specifics.

“We’re working with PPL, the utility in the area, as well as PJM Interconnection to figure out exactly how we would connect the energy we made at a project here to the existing electric grid,” Kennon said. “We’ve been examining environmental issues, endangered species, the water and erosion, all the environmental concerns any construction project looks at. We’ve also been looking at what kind of permitting we’d need for the project, as well as the engineering behind it.”

In 2005, Gamesa approached Pine Grove Borough about the possibility of building a wind farm on a borough-owned elevation.

“Approximately a year or a year and a few months ago, we entered into an agreement with the borough council to investigate the possibility of installing some utility scale wind energy generators on some land the borough owns north of Pine Grove Borough. The agreement has a lease component to it,” Kennon said.

While Gamesa is calling the project the “Pine Grove” project, the future wind farm may not be in borough limits.

“There’s like three townships up there, Pine Grove Township, Tremont Township and Reilly Township, and I’m not sure where the most viable place will for the amount of wind necessary,” Borough Council President Phyllis Hesser said.

Recently Gamesa also installed a wind-monitoring mast on Second Mountain.

“It’s been gathering real-time wind data from the area to help us make sure that there is the expected wind on the project sites,” Kennon said.

At this point, Gamesa is not sure how many turbines it will erect or how much megawatt capacity they’ll contain.

“That’s one of the things we’re investigating. The number of turbines depends on how the wind characteristics look, how much land we have and how much energy we can safely inject into the grid system. It’s all stuff we’re in various stages of studying,” Kennon said.

Hesser said she wasn’t sure of the timeline and thought the wind farm would have been in operation by 2007.

Wind energy projects can take anywhere from three to five years to develop.

“And we’re in the middle of that,” Kennon said.

Gamesa decided to call Pennsylvania its second home in late 2004, when it established its USA Headquarters at 1 S. Broad St., Philadelphia.

Since then, Gamesa also invested upwards of $84 million to build four manufacturing plants, Kennon said. One is a turbine blade making plant at South Park Industrial Complex in Ebensburg, Cambria County; and three three other plants in Bucks County produce windmill blades and towers and assemble nacelles.

“By the end of this year we’ll employ just under 1,000 Pennsylvanians in those four facilities and our office in Philadelphia,” Kennon said.

While Gamesa-brand turbines are being installed in many developments, including Locust Ridge Wind Farm, Mahanoy Township, Gamesa is developing its own wind farm, Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm, located in Cambria and Blair Counties. This 40-turbine facility will have a capacity of 80 megawatts and will go online in early 2007.

Gamesa’s Pine Grove project could become the second utility-scale wind farm in Schuylkill County.

Community Energy Inc., Wayne, Dauphin County, is building the first. A utility-scale wind farm has a capacity exceeding 600 kilowatts, according to Locust Ridge Project Manager Joseph B. Green, West Mahanoy Township.

The 13-turbine, 27 megawatt Locust Ridge Wind Farm, a 1,038-acre operation located just off Route 339, is expected to be operational in mid-November, Green said Tuesday.

Community Energy Inc. is also working to establish another 16 turbines at the Mahanoy Township site, a project it’s calling “Locust Ridge Wind Farm II.”

BY Stephen J. Pytak, Staff Writer


URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2006/10/13/borough-wont-see-turbines-til-2008/