PINE GROVE – The borough is advancing its exploration of energy options.
The Pine Grove Township Zoning Hearing Board gave approval Monday night for erection of a 197-foot wind monitoring tower, on 216 acres of Pine Grove borough property, to gather data to determine if the area would be a good location for a wind farm.
Gamesa Energy USA, Philadelphia, will construct the tower on a site located above the borough’s well field in the Black Creek Valley north of Second Mountain.
Sharon P. Barr, a senior project developer for Gamesa, said the tower will stand on a two-by-three-foot base and be held up by guide wires. No excavation will be required.
It will stand for about one year, she said, to gather enough data to determine if the area would be feasible for a wind farm.
Christopher W. Hobbs, attorney for Gamesa and Pine Grove borough, sought relief from the 35-foot zoning height requirement to allow for the construction of the tower.
The board granted Gamesa and Pine Grove borough two variances, permitting the use and height of the device, during the hearing.
However, there are three stipulations, including that safety and barrier fencing be installed around the perimeter of the tower along with adequately marked guide wires, that Gamesa deconstruct the tower within 24 months and that the purpose of the tower be for wind monitoring only.
The temporary test tower will measure wind speeds and act as a communication facility for Gamesa.
“It’s transmitting data sort of like a cell phone tower,” Hobbs said.
Barr said she anticipates the site will be acceptable for a wind farm, but plans to build wind turbines are not being discussed yet.
“We have to have the tower up first,” she said.
Pine Grove borough entered into a lease agreement with Gamesa in 2004 to allow a five-year period for Gamesa to test wind at the site, according to Hobbs. If it is determined it’s feasible to build a wind farm, steps will be taken with borough and the zoning hearing board to erect wind turbines, he said.
“It was a very nice site. We don’t have to clear much more,” Barr said. She said Gamesa looks for areas that are both high and flat to construct the towers.
“It will not use any public utility, water or sewer,” Hobbs said during the hearing. “The time to construct the tower is about three to five days.”
In June, another wind turbine was added at the Locust Ridge Wind Farm in Mahanoy Township, Pennsylvania’s seventh wind farm. There are 13 turbines at the 1,038-acre operation – the first erected in September 2006. The blades began turning in October 2006.
Hobbs reminded the board Monday that Gov. Ed Rendell encourages local governments to explore alternative energy options.
According to the governor’s press office, wind power is an important piece of Rendell’s Energy Independence Strategy, which will invest $850 million to expand Pennsylvania’s alternative fuel and clean energy industries, stabilize electricity rates for businesses, reduce dependence on foreign oil and cut consumer energy costs by $10 billion over the next 10 years, The Republican & HERALD reported in June.
By Staphanie LaSota
13 November 2007
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