As energy prices rise so does interest in renewable energy, with one of the more recent trends taking route right here in Northumberland County.
Shikellamy High School graduates Justin Dunkelberger and Sean Purdy recently founded Penn Wind and PA Solar, a partnership between DHP Power LLC and Juwi GmbH, of Germany. The company will work with local communities across the country to evaluate sites, lease land, design, build and operate wind farms and solar stations.
The company’s first project will be to place meteorological towers in Northumberland and Schuylkill counties. The first solar radiation test panels will be placed at the East Lycoming School District in Lycoming County, Mr. Dunkelberger said.
As Mr. Dunkelberger explained it, he and Mr. Purdy set out on a path toward wind energy when the two decided they wanted to start up a new business in Central Pennsylvania.
“We want to get in on the ground floor of something profitable, but also something that will leave its mark,” Mr. Dunkelberger said.
What followed were months of attending wind energy conferences and a chance encounter with an energy lobbyist, which got the two entrepreneurs in touch with Juwi.
“At the same time, we at Juwi were looking for new markets as we wanted to spread out our business from Kansas and Iowa to other states,” Christof Schulz, Juwi project manager for the United States and the United Kingdom, said of the company’s partnership. Kingdom, said of the company’s partnership. “Ohio was already in our focus so it was not difficult to decide to go with the DGP Power group to form a new company to work on the Pennsylvania market.”
“Juwi is mainly responsible for the design of the projects as well as for the site selection itself,” Mr. Schulz said. “Financing is also more in Juwi’s hands due to our long list of international investors that are just waiting for our first Pennsylvania project.”
Penn Wind will handle site permitting, Mr. Dunkelberger said, which will involve land development and permitting through the state Department of Environmental Protection, Game Commission and county and municipal government.
“We’re there on the ground,” Mr. Dunkelberger said. “We get to deal with the landowner.”
And though he wouldn’t be specific, he said he and Mr. Purdy already have their eyes on some land in Northumberland County that would be suitable for a wind farm, which is typically a mountain ridge about 1,500 to 1,600 in elevation.
The company hopes to bring the Valley its first wind farm next year.
Though the United States has some of the largest wind farms in the world, the practice enjoys greater acceptance in Europe, where wind farms are perhaps most common in Germany.
And like most new trends, wind turbines are not without critics.
Wind farms have been opposed by those who find them to be a mar to the landscape and environmentalists who claim the farms pose a risk to passing birds.
Mr. Dunkelberger said he is prepared to handle skeptics of wind farms, as well as critics.
“We are going to be walking into every municipality that we work with and have to educate them,” he said.
Wind farms are not considered a replacement for more traditional forms of electricity, but rather an addition that would lead to a drop in electricity rates.
As explained by Mr. Dunkelberger, wind farms operate by feeding their electrical current into the regional energy grid.
The electricity is then sold by local utility companies, the idea being that the added, less expensive form of energy would reduce the overall electric bill.
“If there is enough energy at a locked-in price (the consumer benefits),” he said, and will lead to cleaner energy, more stable energy prices and less reliance on foreign oil.
Juwi is headquartered in Mainz, Germany. With annual revenues of more than $100 million, the international Juwi Group has been developing, financing and operating renewable energy power stations since 1996.
Wind and solar power are the company’s strongest domains. It is developing projects in the United States, Central America, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and France.
To read more about the Penn Wind partnership, go to www.pennwd.com.
By Amanda Keister
The Daily Item
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