Firm plans to open wind farm in 2009; 50-megawatt operation to be constructed atop Mahantongo Mountain
Gamesa Energy of Spain is moving forward with a 50-megawatt wind farm atop more than six miles of Mahantongo Mountain in northern Dauphin County.
The company hopes to have the wind farm operating in 2009, said Michael Peck, a spokesman for Gamesa. Company officials are negotiating leases with property owners along the mountain summit, he said.
Land owners and township officials contacted for this story said Gamesa appears to be interested in the portion of Mahantongo Mountain between Route 147 in Upper Paxton Twp., near the Susquehanna River north of Millersburg, east to the Deibler’s Gap area of Mifflin Twp. It is roughly parallel to Shippen Dam Road, which runs near the base of the mountain.
“I’m 100 percent in approval,” said Glenn Books, who has signed a ground lease with Gamesa for some of his land atop the mountain. “It’s noiseless.”
Not everyone agrees.
Residents of Somerset County who live near an FPL Energy wind farm near Myersdale have complained about the noise, which they say can be as little as a soft, whup, whup, whup, but sometimes loud enough to keep neighbors awake. The noise seems to vary with the weather and time of day.
The number of wind turbines in the Gamesa farm remains to be determined, Peck said. A typical turbine is 1.5 megawatts or less, meaning that 33 or more of the 416-foot turbines would be needed for a 50-megawatt wind farm.
Gamesa has said previously that it typically spaces the turbines about a thousand feet apart. They would be visible for many miles.
Fifty megawatts is enough to provide electricity for 50,000 homes. In comparison, Unit 1 of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant is rated at 850 megawatts. Wind farm output varies by the time of year, and it tends to be lowest in the summer.
Gamesa began testing the winds on Mahantongo Mountain around the beginning of 2006, erecting a 100-foot tall testing unit on Books’ land.
Peck said Gamesa will soon begin seeking the necessary permits from Upper Paxton and Mifflin townships and from the state.
Upper Paxton, unlike Mifflin and many other rural townships in Pennsylvania, has a zoning ordinance. Township officials in both locales said no applications have been received.
Pennsylvania requires minimal permitting for wind farms compared to some states, essentially only an erosion and sedimentation permit. The state Game Commission plans to seek voluntary agreements with wind developers that would set protocols for how turbines affect birds and bats and mitigation patterns.
“This illustrates the need for this,” said Jerry Feaser, a spokesman for the Game Commission. “Wind power is going to be developed.”
Diane Hoy said she and her husband, Greg, own 30 acres of mountain land along the proposed route of the Gamesa wind farm, which they use for hunting and firewood. She hasn’t formed an opinion about whether wind energy is good or bad.
“I need to talk to them more about the noise and about everything that’s entailed,” she said.
Peck said the project will take until 2009 to complete because of the backlog of orders at Gamesa’s manufacturing plants at Fairless Hills and Ebensburg in Pennsylvania. Both are sold out until 2009, he said.
Harrisburg officials are studying the possibility of erecting wind turbines on the mountain above the DeHart Reservoir, but they had nothing to report last week. City spokesman Randy King said a yearlong wind study will continue into early summer.
By David DeKok
Of The Patriot-News
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