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Wind power companies zeroing in on region

There are signs that the plans by international energy giant AES Corporation to erect almost 80 massive wind turbines in Potter County’s farm country could just be the tip of a broader iceberg extending across northcentral Pennsylvania.

Wind energy companies have made forays into Tioga and Cameron counties, at the same time they’re looking into additional sites in Potter.

A citizens’ organization in Tioga County has been formed to rally the populace against an AES Corporation wind plant proposal for that region. The Tioga group is seeking an alliance with Save God’s Country, a Potter County organization formed for the same purpose.

Reports have also filtered into Save God’s Country on wind energy companies’ interest in an area of Hebron Township, north of Coudersport, and Dutch Hill, located immediately south of Coudersport.

Meanwhile, in Cameron County, a National Fuel Gas Corp. subsidiary is studying wind energy options in the county’s northwest region, off Rt. 46 in Shippen Township.

Seneca Resources Corp. is working with a Connecticut firm, Tamarack Group, to assess wind conditions in that area for possible construction of turbines.

Save God’s Country is also tracking down reports of wind energy proposals in McKean and Lycoming counties.

“There is a growing concern that our entire region could be invaded by wind developers,” said Herb Miller, a spokesman for the citizens’ group. “He added that the organization will step up its public education efforts.”

“Many people don’t understand the potential negative impact on our lives and landscape,” Miller added.

The AES plan calls for construction of turbines on leased property in two Potter County townships. The machines are about 400 feet high, with blades whirling at upwards of 200 miles per hour during optimum wind conditions.

Pennsylvania is a taxfriendly state for commercial wind energy, which the Wall Street Journal “calls one of the splashiest success stories in renewable energy.”

Government incentives are one of the major reasons the companies are looking to wind. Another is technology: turbines are now less expensive and more efficient.

Wind power generating capacity increased nationwide by 27% last year.

Save God’s Country will continue to voice its objections to locating the large wind plant in Potter County, Miller said, citing the following concerns: damaging health effects, ground vibration, noise pollution, negative impact on wildlife, declining property values, construction of new roads and transmission lines, alterations in local water flow, shadow flicker, negative impact on tourism, visual intrusion on the landscape, and absence of any direct energy benefits for Potter County.

The group has also been critical of AES Corporation, which operates more than 120 electrical power plants worldwide fueled by coal, oil, natural gas, wind and other energy sources.

Miller said he hopes an informed populace will pressure the Potter County Commissioners, Potter County Planning Commission and local governments in Ulysses and Hector Townships to push for a delay in the permitting process.

“Let’s fully understand what we’re getting ourselves into before we welcome this development,” he said. “This is an important enough issue that we really need to be thorough.”


3 March 2007