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Wind turbines being planned for Rock Run

PATTON – Plans are spinning forward to install about a dozen wind turbines on Rock Run land, with more nearby.

Tests showed that winds in northern Cambria County will support turbines. Developers are plotting locations, but it’s probably going to be a few years before wind turbines are turning on the old strip mine-turned all-terrain-vehicle park, Rock Run Chairman and state Rep. Gary Haluska, D-Patton, said Monday.

However, the plans won’t get in the way of the main goal: continuing to develop the property into a premier off-road park.

“With the wind farm, it is a matter of getting the agreements in place between Freedom Wind Energy, [land owner] Cambria County Conservation and Recreation Authority and Rock Run and getting site plans on the ground worked out,” Haluska said.

A state policy on the placement of wind farms on state land – or lack thereof – is the immediate hurdle, said Kennan Dandar, chief executive officer of Freedom Wind Energy, which is developing the wind farm with partner Babcock & Brown.

The group has been awaiting news on a policy for more than a year, but Dandar is optimistic a plan could be laid out within the next week.

That policy likely would address steps needed before a farm could be built on state land – in this case, the Rock Run property, which was purchased through a grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Bird migration and other environmental impact studies likely would be required – all of which Dandar said his company already has completed testing on.

“If there are no surprises, we should be OK on that end,” he said. “We’re anxious to get started, but this probably will be a 2009 project.”

Haluska said the project is beginning to clear hurdles and that turbine placement will be one of them.

“We’re already meeting on that. Ones that might impact the recreation park wouldn’t be built; we don’t want them interfering with the road system,” he said. “And if there’s trail displacement, [the developer] would be responsible for rerouting them.”

A dozen or so two-megawatt turbines would be erected on Rock Run property and about the same number across the valley on other property toward Seldom Seen Mine, Haluska said.

Dandar said one turbine may be placed next to the tourist mine, and, in return, would help offset utility costs at the site.

As owner of the Rock Run property, the Conservation & Recreation Authority would reap most of the rewards turbines would bring to the ATV site.

But if all goes well, a small portion would go back into the park toward its operation and expansion, Haluska said.

The park, which opened earlier this summer, has 50 miles of off-road vehicle trails, with more expected in the coming years.

When complete, $20 million or more could be invested in numerous project phases, with recreation areas added for 4-by-4 trucks, dirt bikes and others, developers have said.

By David Hurst

Altoona Mirror

31 July 2007