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Reaction mixed to wind farm proposal at Troy meeting

The 300 people who came out to see what all the fuss was about concerning a proposed wind farm project for Armenia Mountain had mixed reactions to the proposal.

AES, a global energy company headquartered in Arlington, Va., presented the plan for up to 79 300 to 400-foot wind turbines on 9,000 acres of leased property in both Tioga and Bradford counties to the people of Bradford County Tuesday at the high school here.

The project is expected to generate enough electricity to power 47,000 homes and contribute about $225,000 in property taxes to local municipalities.

Following the presentation by company spokesman Robert White, the floor was opened up to questions from the crowd, and comments.

Among the objections raised by opponents to the turbines were the impact of turning blade and rotor noise on nearby residents, not to mention birds, bats and other wildlife in the area, even potential negative impact on water tables from blasting for site preparation.

“The noise level at 1,000 feet is about 55 decibels, which is the level of normal conversation,” White said.

White and his associate Charles Falter also addressed other concerns raised by residents about the turbines affecting their property values.

Citing two studies done by independent study groups, including the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, wind farms in study areas had “no measurable effects” on neighboring property values.

Even negative effects on tourism were rebutted with claims by company officials that “many places where wind farms are located have seen an increase in tourism.”

“Palm Springs, Calif., sees 12,000 people annually who come to their area to see the wind farms,” White said.

White noted many studies by independent agents and permits from a plethora of local, state and federal agencies and municipalities will be conducted and obtained before construction can begin, to ensure that the company is in compliance with all ordinances and regulations.

“DEP has done no studies on any of this. They are taking your word as Gospel,” said Rutland Township resident Robert Schwoyer.

Schwoyer is part of a citizen’s action group formed by Frank and Judi Piccolella the Tioga Preservation Group, to fight the wind farm company‘s efforts to establish the farm here and previously had opposed the Laurel Ridge project in Lycoming Township.

Other questions dealt with the possibility of local rural electric coops benefiting from the energy generated by the turbines with lower prices from AES.

“We will be talking to local coops but I can’t tell you about pricing,” White responded.

Bradford County commissioner candidate Mark Smith asked White how they found Armenia Mountain.

White responded that wind speed attracted them to the area.

“Armenia Mountain has good wind speed, close to what we have in the southwestern part of the state,” he said, where a large wind farm is in operation.

Falter asked residents not to take the company’s word for anything, but to “visit a wind farm and draw your own conclusions.”

By Cheryl R. Clarke

Williamsport Sun-Gazette

27 June 2007