Opponents of a proposed wind farm in Taylor Township in Centre County and Snyder Township in Blair County will host a public forum Wednesday to address the effects they think the project will have on neighboring communities and animal habitat.
The forum, “Save Ice Mountain,” will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Tyrone Area High School.
Four environmentalists with expertise in wind farms and ecology will talk and answer questions. In addition, there will be people who will discuss their experiences living near the 40-turbine Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm in Cambria and Blair counties.
Opponents organized the forum in response to a similar event held by Gamesa Energy USA in December, said Stan Kotala, president of Juniata Valley Audubon.
“We want to bring out the consequences such a project would have, which they didn’t touch on,” Kotala said.
Gamesa has proposed building a wind farm with 25 windmills that would stand as high as 404 feet. Most of the project, known a the Sandy Ridge Wind Farm, would be in Snyder Township, with a smaller portion in Taylor.
According to Gamesa, the wind farm would generate enough energy to power 15,000 homes and would have a footprint of 58 acres.
Opponents have expressed concern that the turbines, along with roads, transmission lines and substations, would affect interior forests, creating “edge habitat,” and fragment the home of endangered species.
Ice Mountain, where part of the project would be built, is especially vulnerable because it is a large expanse of unbroken forest, Kotala said.
“The site is of exceptional conservation value,” he added.
Gamesa officials do not plan to attend the forum. Project developer Josh Framel said Gamesa conducts environmental studies to select areas where wind farms would have the least environmental impact, and to design the project around existing roadways. Once the project is complete, Gamesa will re-seed and regrade the area and work with an local expert to implement a forest restoration plan.
“You end up with a project that generates clean electricity and stimulates the local economy, compared to other power sources where the impact is much higher,” he said. “We’re getting emissions-free electricity with no drilling and no mining … but every-one’s opinion is going to be different.”
Kotala pointed out that opponents of the project are actually supporters of wind power.
“We’re opposed to any kind of development at that site, and it just happens to be wind farms,” he said.
Kotala, a 30-year member of the National Audubon Society and a member of the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology will speak on “Ice Mountain’s Significance to the People of Tyrone.”
Other speakers include:
•Dan Boone, a professional natural resources policy analyst, will give a talk “Are the Claims about Wind Power Accurate?” He has spent 30 years studying plans, wildlife and their habitat throughout the Appalachian region and is a former member of the Virginia Wind Energy Collaborative.
•Laura Jackson, former science educator and director of Bedford’s Environmental Center and chairwoman of Save Our Allegheny Ridges, will give the talk “Turbine Turmoil: A Survey of Industrial Wind Projects in South-central Pennsylvania.”
•Kim Van Fleet, a staff biologist with Audubon Pennsylvania and hawk expert, will give the talk “The Allegheny Front and Ice Mountain: An Exceptional- Value Area for Birds.”
For more information about the forum, contact Stan Kotala by calling 814-946-8840.
Cori Bolger For the CDT
25 March 2008
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