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State willing to license forests for wind farms

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said yesterday that Secretary Michael DiBerardinis never meant to imply that state parks were being considered as sites for wind farms.

But state forests are being considered, spokeswoman Chris Novak said.

DiBerardinis told attendees at the Penn Future Clean Energy Conference in East Pennsboro Twp. on Thursday that the Rendell administration was close to deciding whether to seek Legislative approval to license sites in “public lands” to wind-energy developers.

Public lands under control of DCNR are state forests and state parks, but he did not expand on his comments at the time.

A document on the DCNR Web site, “Using GIS for Preliminary Wind Power Planning,” suggests the agency believed in June 2006 that 17 of 20 state forests and 16 of 116 (now 117) state parks contained “large wind potential” areas.

The agency has backed off that position and will seek to place the windmills only on state forests. The percentage of state forest eyed for wind development is small – 3 percent of the acreage.

The document used Tuscarora State Forest on Tuscarora Mountain – located roughly west of Carlisle and New Bloomfield and south of Lewistown – as a planning example. While the forest contains “large wind potential” areas in its central portion, it also contains old-growth forest, wilderness areas and so-called Important Bird Areas. These were labeled “potential conflicts.”

Novak said the document was prepared to show how geo-spatial technology could be used to plan for wind development on public lands. She said the numbers in the report were never considered “final,” and she would not pinpoint the current number of state forests with wind-development potential.

“We think it is a very small area,” Novak said.

Jeff Schmidt of the Sierra Club of Pennsylvania, who has participated in DCNR’s Wind-Wildlife Collaboration, said yesterday that the Rendell administration has been cool to suggestions that the state ought to have rules on protecting sensitive sites from wind development.

He said the Rendell administration was unreceptive to a suggestion that utilities be required to purchase “low-impact wind power” to meet their requirements under the state’s alternative energy portfolio standards. That would be wind power produced on non-sensitive sites.

Novak said DCNR listened to Schmidt’s suggestions and asked for more information.

By David DeKok

The Patriot-News

2 June 2007