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Ice Mountain plan drawing protests; Gamesa’s turbines raise concern for water  

As Tyrone Borough and Spanish-based wind energy generator Gamesa work out the fine print on a lease agreement for watershed acreage, those outside the process question the merits of placing turbines on Ice Mountain.

‘‘In a sense, I’m for it, but I do not want to jeopardize the water,’’ said Clair Turnbaugh, one of about three dozen residents who signed a petition protesting the wind turbines.

Turnbaugh, 82, said the water supply ‘‘has been marvelous over the years,’’ and he is concerned that windmills may degrade the water quality and supply.

Turnbaugh said he also used to hunt on the Ice Mountain watershed. Putting all of that at risk is not worth the money the borough would receive, he said.

‘‘I’m thinking of the younger generations,’’ Turnbaugh said.

The issue also spills into Snyder Township, where the borough’s 3,800-acre watershed is located.

Resident Jeff Morrisey said he has done as much as he could to educate himself about the issue of wind turbines since he became aware of Gamesa’s intentions.

‘‘The more I found out, the less I liked them,’’ he said of the 380-foot-tall windmills. ‘‘I don’t want them anywhere. I really don’t see where they’re making a difference.’’

The difference Morrisey brings up is the debate over whether wind is a ‘‘green’’ enough alternative to electricity generation methods, particularly coal-powered generation.

By law, Pennsylvania must generate at least 18 percent of its electricity by other means by 2020. Currently, according to Gamesa statistics, Pennsylvania produces less than 1 percent.

In the face of rising demand, estimated by Gamesa at 3 percent annually, Morrisey said he doubts the Rendell administration’s goal of having 4,000 2-megawatt-producing windmills built on Pennsylvania ridge tops will make it past the 2 percent mark.

‘‘They only work when the wind blows,’’ Morrisey said.

Resident Skip Chamberlain likened wind energy to breaking wind ‘‘in a balloon and trying to cook eggs with it the next morning.’’

‘‘Initially, I was open-minded to it,’’ Chamberlain, 46, said. ‘‘The more I started looking into it, the more I saw nothing good can come out of it.’’

Gamesa project manager Josh Framel said wind turbines offer a clean, emission-free electricity generation alternative to fossil fuels and said the company thoroughly studies each turbine’s environmental impact before construction, as well as paves the widened roads to lessen any long-term effect on wildlife and the ecosystem.

Councilman-elect Mark Kosoglow said he doesn’t think the borough would gain enough financially. At this point, through an informal poll by Mayor Jim Kilmartin, about 70 percent of residents are against windmills.

‘‘It’s just not worth it,’’ Kosoglow said of the money the borough could expect from a deal.

The money – $60,000 to $90,000 annually – would go to Tyrone Borough.

William Hall, who heads the Tyrone Borough Authority’s five-member board, said no plans are in the works for what to do with extra funds.

‘‘There is a need for work on the watershed with reforestation,’’ Hall said.

Initially, the borough would lease 1,948 acres to Gamesa, borough Manager Sharon Danaway said.

After the turbines – 10 to 15 on borough property – are built, the number of acres will decrease to about one acre per site, not including the roads that will also be used for power lines.

By Greg Bock

Altoona Mirror

18 November 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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