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Towers of power

Lancaster County is hardly considered a kite-flying mecca. Nevertheless, the county’s first wind turbine farm may take wing atop the county landfill along the Susquehanna River.

The Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority and PPL have joined forces to explore the feasibility of erecting a $24 million wind-to-energy complex on Turkey Point, south of Washington Boro.

If built, six 2-megawatt wind turbines, each 370 feet high (counting the blades), would be placed on an edge of the Frey Farm Landfill that looms above the Susquehanna River.

“We think that this site probably has the best wind characteristics in Lancaster County for a potential wind project,” says James Warner, executive director of the waste authority.

The PPL/waste authority vision for transforming the landfill into a center for renewable energy potential doesn’t stop with the wind.

For the future, the partners also are considering a 10-acre, south-facing field of solar panels on exposed portions of the landfill.

In 2006, PPL and the authority hooked up to open a mini-energy plant that converts methane gas under the landfill into electricity. The steam byproduct is piped to the adjacent Turkey Hill Dairy. The project has already garnered several environmental awards.

Before any decision is made on the wind turbine project, the authority and PPL plan to gather a year’s worth of data on wind speed and frequency at the proposed site.

The authority has asked Manor Township for permission to erect a temporary, 180-foot wind-measuring tower at the landfill.

Manor officials say they expect to grant it but want to present the project to the public at the supervisors’ meeting on Monday.

Barry Smith, township manager, said this of the proposed wind turbine project: “I think it has great merit and we’re hoping this exploratory process leads to an additional solution to power needs.”

Preliminary figures gathered from a new weather station at the landfill are encouraging, Warner says. Since November, the average wind speed has been 11 mph.

A wind speed of 6 to 8 mph is necessary to begin turning the wind turbine blades and 18 to 20 mph to propel them to full speed.

The new tower would measure wind even higher above ground – and presumably stronger – where the turbine blades would be situated.

Warner and Steven Gabrielle, PPL Energy Services’ business development manager, believe the landfill will be a suitable site because of several geographic factors.

First, Turkey Point faces directly into prevailing northwest winds. Second, since the point juts out into the Susquehanna, wind tends to accelerate and zoom upward when it collides with the steep, 250-foot-high slope facing the river.

Adding to PPL and waste authority optimism for the wind project, PPL transmission lines are already in place at the landfill. In addition, Turkey Hill Dairy owners have expressed an interest in buying electricity generated by wind turbines.

By Ad Crable
Lancaster New Era


2 May 2007