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Board mulls lease of land for wind farm

SUNBURY – A local entrepreneur is hoping to lease a 200-acre piece of land from Northumberland County to develop a wind farm that would generate enough electricity to power more than 5,000 homes for an entire year.

Justin Dunkelberger, chief executive officer of Penn Wind LLC, said his company entered into an “exploratory agreement” with the county last year to examine the feasibility of using wind-powered turbines to generate electricity on Burnside Mountain near Gowen City.

After a year of testing, he went before the county commissioners Tuesday to request a lease agreement so his company can begin construction next year.

“Without your understanding of the future and cultivation of the entrepreneurial spirit, we would not be able to make this announcement today,” he said to the board.

Penn Wind LLC, based in Sunbury, is a joint venture of DGP Power and Juwi GmbH and was founded in March 2006 to find and develop land to create wind and solar energy.

Mr. Dunkelberger said they already have secured several sites across the country, including land in New York, Ohio, Maryland, Iowa and Kansas.

If everything works out, the site in Northumberland County would be the organization’s first in Pennsylvania, he said.

The plan calls for the construction of seven turbines that would be connected to a power grid owned by PPL Electric Utilities, and from there, PPL would distribute the energy as needed.

The turbines would generate approximately 6 million kilowatts of energy, enough to power 5,200 homes for a year, he said. “We could effectively power the city of Shamokin, plus another 600 homes.”

He said the $35 million project could produce several new jobs, increasing the company’s six-person staff by 300 percent to 400 percent in the next year.

Although there is an increasing interest in renewable energy, Mr. Dunkelberger said the field is still “in its infancy in the U.S.”

While 6 million kilowatts may sound like a lot of power, he said, “PPL uses 6 million kilowatts in a couple hours.”

Because renewable energy – like wind and solar power – isn’t affected by market forces and is in unlimited supply, it could one day help stabilize energy prices, he said. “Customers would not feel an immediate impact … But that’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get people to embrace this new technology.”

The commissioners did not give Mr. Dunkelberger an answer Tuesday, but seemed excited about the long-term possibilities of his proposal.

“The amount of energy is staggering,” said Commissioner Samuel Deitrick. “We’ve been very enthusiastic about this project.”

Penn Wind is funded through private investments, Mr. Dunkelberger said.

By Rob Scott

The Daily Item

18 October 2007