A meteorological tower felled during last weekend’s ice storm has led some residents to further question a wind company’s already controversial plans for Shaffer Mountain.
“It’s a concern for many residents of Shaffer Mountain. What does it say if they cannot maintain one meteorological tower?” said Karin Sedewar of Shaffer Mountain Road.
Representatives from Gamesa Energy USA, whose project would build 30 turbines along the Allegheny Front, said the 262-foot tall tower likely fell due to severe weather conditions.
Project Developer Tim Vought said the storm was strong enough to close roads, bring down trees and knock out the power in parts of the state.
Two other 196-foot high towers located on the proposed site were not damaged by the storm, he said.
The weather for Dec. 15-16 was marked by strong enough winds that a wind advisory was released by the National Weather Service, according to service online archiving.
The winds, which gusted up to 52 mph at their peak, were accompanied by icing and more than one-half inch of total precipitation, according to online records maintained by the Weather Underground.
However, those conditions are hardly unusual on the mountain, long-time resident Sedewar said. She said that winds and icing of those proportions probably occur 20 times a year up there.
A search of available weather records for this December and December 2006 show similar weather characteristics on six occasions alone.
Company officials stressed that a meteorological tower is very different from a turbine structure. The release described the test towers as having steel tube frames anchored by steel cables.
A completed wind turbine is anchored on an 8-foot-deep by a 52-foot-wide concrete foundation.
The felled tower, which was originally installed in June, 2006 will be replaced later this year, according to the release from the company.
All of Gamesa’s meteorological towers are built to industry standards and certified by an independent professional engineer, according to the release.
The Somerset County Planning Commission requires test towers to be setback from buildings at the height of the tower plus 100 feet.
By Dan DiPaolo
22 December 2007
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