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Windmills proposed for Fayette County  

With the state focusing more on renewable energy sources, one of the world’s largest wind-generated energy producers is exploring Fayette County for a new windmill farm.

A few dozen local residents turned out Tuesday evening at an open house held in Fairchance to review preliminary plans for a windmill farm on Chestnut Ridge in Georges and Wharton townships.

The project, under the direction of PPM Energy, based in Portland, Ore., would utilize 25 state-of-the-art wind turbine generators to produce enough power to meet the electricity needs of 17,500 homes.

Only six of the turbines would be located in Wharton Township, with the remaining 19 located in Georges Township.

Wharton Township supervisors said Monday night that they are taking steps to restrict the construction of the windmills to try and govern where the turbines are installed.

According to Sam Enfield, development director of the Mid-Atlantic region for PPM Energy, the site was chosen because of the good wind levels recorded in preliminary site tests.

“With the elevation between 2,400 and 2,700 feet we are getting some pretty good wind readings,” Enfield said. “It is not a home run but it is a very good site.”

Enfield said developers have been studying the area for about two years and have been in negotiations with local municipalities regarding the project.

If constructed, the windmills, which stand more than 400-feet tall, would be visible from several area roads including Route 119, project officials said.

Enfield said that the energy generated by the 44-foot blades would be circulated into the grids of electric companies across the region and would be used wherever needed.

“Everything goes into the power grid and the power produced from the windmills would be flowed to areas where power was in demand,” Enfield said. “People think that you have to have a power plant to back up wind power but it doesn’t work that way. It just goes wherever it is needed along with the other power generated from other sources.”

The project would not be PPM Energy’s first in the county, according to Enfield, noting that the company also owns the windmills that have been in operation for several years in Mill Run.

He said that the company would also explore state grants and funding for the project as it ties in with the state’s push for more renewable energy sources.

“It is something we have done and will explore again,” Enfield said.

He said that no property would be acquired for the project, but would instead be leased from the landowners by the company.

The open house was held on the same day that Gov. Edward G. Rendell dedicated Pennsylvania’s newest wind farm, Locust Ridge, in Schuylkill County.

“Pennsylvania has established itself as a top destination for alternative energy companies and development projects. Some of the world’s leading companies…have chosen to set up shop in Pennsylvania. They realize that they can compete and succeed here because of our commitment to growing this industry and our competitive business environment,” Rendell said in a press release.

According to state officials, Pennsylvania is one of the nation’s leaders in wind energy production on the East Coast with 179 megawatts of capacity, including Locust Ridge. Within the next 12 months, state officials said they expect new wind farm projects will add another 214 megawatts of capacity.

Rendell said wind power is an important piece of his Energy Independence Strategy, which he said will invest $850 million to expand Pennsylvania’s alternative fuel and clean energy industries, stabilize electricity rates for businesses, reduce dependence on foreign oil and cut consumer energy costs by $10 billion over the next decade.

The governor’s proposal calls for up to $500 million in grants and low-interest loans for clean energy projects and development for specific energy development projects.

Enfield said there is no real timetable for the proposed windmills, but said that it would be a realistic goal to begin construction in the next two years.

The Fayette County Zoning and Hearing Board will conduct a hearing regarding PPM Energy’s petition to build the turbines at 1:30 p.m. today.

By Josh Krysak

The Herald Standard

20 June 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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