October 15, 2006

Energy firm testing winds

More windmills could be on the horizon for Fayette County.

PPM Energy has been testing the winds on the Chestnut Ridge, south of Route 40.

“We’ve been collecting wind data for about two years,” said Jan Johnson, a spokesman for PPM Energy.

Gary Verkleeren, a PPM engineer, said two meteorological towers were erected on the ridge last year.

They are located just south of Skyline Drive in Wharton Township.

Verkleeren said two were required to gather data because of “the complex up-and-downs of the mountain.”

Johnson said the company doesn’t share wind data with its competitors but acknowledged that PPM Energy was encouraged enough by the results of the study to file a request with the state Department of Environmental Protection for an environmental review.

The company already has 10 windmills on the Laurel Ridge overlooking Mill Run. It also operates six on a wind farm near Somerset and 20 overlooking Meyersdale in Somerset County.

While the proposal is in its preliminary stages, Verkleeren said there’s the possibility a line of as many as 30 new windmills could be erected on the ridge across portions of Wharton, Georges and Springhill townships.

Each of the windmills at Mill Run is capable of churning out 1.5 megawatts of electricity at peak performance, providing enough power for 500 homes.

Although Verkleeren said new turbines would be more efficient than the ones at Mill Run, their appearance would be similar.

The windmills have a base 250 feet high and three blades 100 feet long – nearly the height of a 10-story building.

The windmills wouldn’t be visible from Uniontown, except from a certain part of Route 51 “with binoculars,” Verkeeren said.

They would be visible from Route 43, on the southern leg of the Mon-Fayette Expressway that runs into West Virginia. Motorists would have a view similar to what drivers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike see as they pass by the windmills just outside Somerset.

Verkeerland said that more “outreach” needs to be done with landowners and public officials before the project moves ahead.

In addition to the state approval, a special-exception zoning permit will be required through county and municipal planning offices, with the prerequisite public hearings.

The company also is looking at wind data on a portion of Chestnut Ridge overlooking Saltlick and Bullskin townships.

If the South Chestnut Ridge Windpower project, as it is called, comes to fruition, the new windmills could be turning in 2007-2008.


URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2006/10/15/energy-firm-testing-winds/