The Borough of Tyrone has a very difficult decision ahead. Gamesa Energy USA (Gamesa) is proposing to place 10-15 wind mills on borough property located on Ice Mountain and hoping to install a total of 25 units on the ridge tops. Gamesa will pay the borough $6,000 per unit once it is operational and the contract would be for 29 years and 11 months. The money generated would be used for the water department because it is on the water shed.
Tyrone Mayor James Kilmartin is asking the community to provide its input on the potential wind farm. Gamesa will be hoping to receive the borough’s decision at the next council meeting November 13.
“I want the community’s response,” said Mayor Kilmartin. “These wind mills will be up there for almost 30 years. These are 300 foot structures, then another 150 feet with the blades, so it’s a 450 foot structure that’s going to be on top of our ridge tops.”
Mayor Kilmartin stated that there are pros and cons with the wind mill decision because the structures will take up the ridge tops that people so tremendously love about this community and area, but there’s also the idea of clean energy – hence, the debate.
“If we do it, it would help offset costs,” added Mayor Kilmartin. “We are a small borough so we deal with loss often, we’re always looking for something that’s going to help, but I also want to know what the community says because this is going to be a long lasting legacy.”
He continued, “Years ago somebody made the decision to bring in low income housing and we went overboard on that, so now we’re reaping some of the negative fruits of that decision. We want to look at this wind mill decision very systematically.”
The following is a summary of the 29 year and 11 month lease and easement agreement terms proposed by Gamesa, which may be tweaked some according to borough solicitor Larry Clapper.
The payment schedule is as follows: 1. $1,500 per year for the Option Period ($3,000 for the first two years paid after execution of the agreement, and then $1,500 at each subsequent anniversary, if lease is not exercised, for a maximum of five years). 2. $3,000 per windmill for the Construction Period (about $30,000 to $45,000 total; expected to last from 8-10 months). 3. $6,000 per windmill per year for the Operation Period, or three percent of the gross annual electricity revenue, whichever is greater (guaranteed minimum of $60,000 to $90,000 per year).
The Borough of Tyrone will maintain existing agreements on the property, and Gamesa facilities will not impair existing uses: No negative impact to existing communications towers, no negative impact to springs, and no negative impact to the watershed.
The borough will maintain the right to use the property for hunting, farming, conservation, timber removal, gas and oil mining, watershed management, and public water supply protection.
Gamesa will provide the development plan to the borough before the start of construction for review. Gamesa also agrees to follow requirements from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements concerning erosion and sediment control and watershed protection.
At the end of construction Gamesa will perform a boundary survey of the installed facilities and will restrict the lease to cover only those areas (approximately 90 acres maximum; a large amount of which will be existing roads).
The Borough of Tyrone will be added as an additional insured to Gamesa’s insurance policy. Gamesa agrees to remove the wind mills at the end of the project and will maintain a Letter of Credit to cover the cost of removal.
Gamesa will consult with the borough and install security gates if necessary to restrict access to the property.
There are individuals and organizations opposed to Gamesa’s proposed wind farms. The Juniata Valley Audubon Society (JVAS) vehemently opposes the wind mills on the borough’s property on Ice Mountain. JVAS President Stan Kotala stated that it’s not that they oppose wind farm development, they oppose any kind of development on Ice Mountain.
“The proposed Ice Mountain wind farm site has very strong scientific certification from the Blair County National Heritage Inventory and the Pennsylvania Biological Survey as being a unique area of exceptional conservation value,” explained Kotala.
Juniata Valley Audubon asks that landowners considering leasing their property to Gamesa respect the scientific certification of the Ice Mountain site as a Landscape Conservation area and a County Natural Heritage area as well as an important bird area and a Greenway, and reject any proposal by the industrial windplant developer to construct industrial wind turbines or carve access roads for the construction and maintenance of turbines for the Sandy Ridge (Ice Mountain) Wind Farm.
Kotala added, “At this site, the huge ecological costs of an industrial wind farm will far exceed the tiny environmental benefit that such a facility could provide.”
According to Gamesa officials at the October borough council meeting, the construction and maintenance of the proposed wind farm is environmentally friendly and safe.
And once again, Mayor Kilmartin is asking the community to offer its opinion and feedback on the wind farm proposal before a decision is made in November. He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your home address in the email. You can also call him at 684-1330.
By Kris Yaniello
17 October 2007
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