Mario Leone Jr. had the environment in mind when he proposed that Hopewell Township erect windmills to provide electricity for the township’s operations.
Leone also has the township’s bottom line in mind.
Leone, chairman of the township commissioners, got approval from his colleagues Monday to see whether the winds in the township are strong enough to warrant construction of a small wind farm, which would provide electricity to township-owned properties.
“It’s the responsible thing to do, in more ways than one,” Leone said. “It’s smart from an environmental sense, and it’s smart from a financial sense as well.”
In 2006, Hopewell paid $400,000 in electric bills – $230,000 for township operations and $170,000 for the township’s sewer department, Leone said.
But if the site he has in mind is suitable – on the bluffs above the Ohio River near the township’s road department garage – windmills there could eliminate most, and maybe all, of the township’s reliance on outside sources of power.
“If you look at what we’re spending, we’re talking about possibly eliminating an expense equal to one-and-a-quarter mills of property tax,” Leone said. “In the sewer department budget, that figure is about 8 percent. It would be nice to be able to pass those savings on to our residents.”
With the approval Monday, the township’s engineering firm, Widmer Engineers of Beaver Falls, will work to set up a temporary weather station on the road department property to measure wind direction and speed to see whether windmills would be effective there. If that’s the case, Hopewell officials would seek grant money to help cover the cost of installing the equipment.
“This kind of thing has been a priority of (Gov. Ed Rendell), and I know there are different state grants that can help,” Leone said. “While we wait to see if the site is feasible, we’ll be investigating any potential grants out there.”
Wind power isn’t Leone’s only target. He’d like to see solar panels placed on township properties to help provide electricity as well.
“We should at least investigate any of these possibilities,” he said. “With the potential savings, and the potential environmental impact, it’s worth taking a look.”
By: Mike Pound, Times Staff
20 February 2007