Gamesa Energy USA first approached Tyrone Borough about using land to test for wind generation on Ice Mountain back in May of 2006.
Since then, an array of media coverage, public forums, and a public survey brought more attention to Gamesa’s proposed 10 to 15 turbine site in conjunction with the proposed Sandy Ridge Wind Farm that stretches into two counties.
The borough’s potential wind turbine site is located in Snyder Township, where township supervisors recently passed a wind turbine ordinance regulating turbines that are built in Snyder Township.
Tyrone Borough and Snyder Township will both gain monetary revenue if a wind farm is constructed on the Ice Mountain site. The borough looks to gain between $3 to $5 million off of a Gamesa 30-year lease, and Snyder Township would gain $3,000 per turbine per year, plus permit fees, if any wind company is granted a permit to construct a windmill in the township.
All of the chess pieces are in place for a Gamesa checkmate, but Tyrone Borough Council has yet to put a vote on the table to decide the fate of the proposed wind farm.
Gamesa Project Developer Josh Framel has been involved with Gamesa’s proposal to the borough since its inception. Framel once again made his trek from Gamesa’s Philadelphia location to Tyrone Monday night to ask council to vote on the Ice Mountain turbine site.
Once again, Framel was turned down by council. Mayor Jim Kilmartin and borough solicitor Larry Clapper informed him that council wants to have all of its members present when voting on the wind farm issue. The council seats will not be full until the September 8 meeting.
On Monday, council was without members Jennifer Bryan and Mark Kosoglow.
Kilmartin would not say if a vote would occur for sure at the September meeting, but he thinks it would be a good idea in terms of understanding Gamesa’s side of the project. He said on Monday he received phone calls from undisclosed people wondering where the borough was with the proposal.
“The council hasn’t come to a consensus,” stated Kilmartin. “We haven’t made up our minds on the situation. It’s a big deal and we don’t want to rush into anything.”
Speculation has been in the air about Tyrone Borough being approached by natural gas companies wanting to drill on the watershed property of Ice Mountain, which may have borough officials in a limbo to which topic they should address.
The borough and Framel realize that both can be accomplished together if wanted.
“You could do the gas and wind individually, but you could do them together as well,” noted Kilmartin. “The gas is a new thing, and we’ve been dealing with the windmills for quite some time – it’ll be good at some point in the near future for us just to make a decision to go one way or the other – and I think the majority of council feels that way.”
Framel has publicly stated that Gamesa has no problems with the borough looking at potential natural gas drilling, in fact, it’s in the company’s lease agreement that drilling can be done within the wind farm location.
He says it is a separate issue from the proposed wind farm. The main reason why Gamesa would like to see a vote occur on its turbine project, regardless of the outcome, is because the company needs to look ahead and have enough time to order items for the wind farm that would take time to receive.
“We have to put in an order for the actual windmills,” said Framel. “The demand is so high that it needs to happen a year or two in advance.”
He added, “As we look ahead to what projects we want to put into our pipeline, we need to know by a certain time of the year if we can do it for the next year.”
If borough council would vote in favor of constructing the Ice Mountain turbine site, the continuing months that go by without a decision could set the project back another year.
Framel also said that permitting is a factor. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is stringent on erosion control and its other elements. Gamesa needs the time to get permit requirements in order if the wind farm is approved by council.
“We think this is a really good project and we’d like to move forward with it,” stated Framel. “The wind is better than other places, and we’ve done a lot of environmental studies that are site specific. We have more information about this potential site than other ones – we think it’s very compatible for a wind farm.”
The environmental studies such as looking at all of the specific wetlands in the area and the condition of the forest at the site based on Gamesa’s and borough forester Paul Noll’s input, Framel says makes the Ice Mountain and Sandy Ridge project a higher priority than others within the company.
He said that all of the existing logging roads and the AT&T cable located at the site also contributes to Gamesa’s want to construct turbines on the highly accessible property.
Gamesa has a study agreement in place, which is how its test towers were placed on the mountain to conduct wind studies. Framel said Gamesa would like to have an actual commitment from the borough before the company invests more significant funds and resources.
“It has a higher priority just based on the research we put into it,” added Framel. “I want it to go forward personally more than anything because I have been talking to the borough specifically proposing a lease agreement for over a year, but we’ve been talking to the them about a wind farm for a long time – since then, it’s just been discussion and the discussion has since tapered off, and there’s no decision.”
Framel said that his intentions are not to push the borough into making a decision, but at the same time, he wants to be as proactive as he can be.
“I think all of the council members are informed (on the project),” stated Framel. “I think they have the public’s opinion also, so now we just need someone to move forward.”
He continued, “The people who voted in the public survey at the April 22 primary let council know they wanted something too.”
Fifty-five percent of Tyrone Borough registered voters opted for the proposed Gamesa wind farm on Ice Mountain. A total of 1,094 residents took part in the survey.
By Kris Yaniello
16 July 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding