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Pennsylvania says only 2% of state lands available for wind farms

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has decided that only 2% of 2 million acres of state forestlands might be possible sites for commercial wind farms.

After looking at the state lands in the context of the department’s mission to protect habitat and endangered species, and other issues, including whether there was enough wind, the department decided only 2% of the land could possibly be used for commercial wind farms, department spokeswoman Christina Novak said Aug. 14.

The department has been reviewing the acreage that it oversees to determine whether any of that land could or should be available for lease to developers of commercial wind farms.

Before any of the land could be made available to developers, however, the state Legislature would have to give approval, and the department has not yet decided whether to ask the Legislature for that approval, Novak said. The state currently allows land it controls to be leased for timber and oil and gas development, among other things.

Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, an environmental advocacy group, said it would consider spearheading or joining others in a lobbying effort to allow wind farms on public lands, with the exception of state parks.

“Wind is a zero-pollution technology with minimal environmental impact,” PennFuture President John Hanger said. “Wind farms avoid huge carbon pollution that would destroy through global warming Pennsylvania’s forests.”

Airtricity Inc., one of a number of companies developing wind projects in the state, said it would join a lobbying effort to allow wind projects on state lands. “We’d support any effort to open up property for development [of wind farms],” said Doug Colbeck, Airtricity’s vice president of Northeast development.

The state began reviewing its land for possible wind sites about two years ago out of concern about global warming and the need for alternative renewable energy sources, Novak said.

The state has put up single turbines at six sites on state park land, and these six demonstration projects will remain for educational purposes, she said.

The 2%, or 40,000 acres, of state lands that might someday support a wind farm are located in various regions around the state, Novak said.

The American Wind Energy Association reports eight operating wind energy facilities totaling 179 MW of capacity, though only one is larger than 30 MW, and six more are either proposed or already under construction.

By Susan Nelson


17 August 2007