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Blue Mountain eyes wind turbines as resort power source

Blue Mountain Ski Area could soon be harnessing the wind to meet a significant portion of its energy needs.

Barbara Green, president of the Carbon County resort, told the Lower Towamensing Township Planning Commission on Thursday that she’s agreed to work with St. Francis University in Cambria County to see how much power could be produced.

Blue Mountain spends $1.2 million annually buying electricity from PPL, and a renewable energy source could make a huge dent in the resort’s bill, Green said. During the spring, summer and fall when the mountain is closed, the power produced by a wind turbine would be sold to PPL.

Planners responded enthusiastically to the prospect of a study, which would take about a year, and they recommended township supervisors give the resort permission to take part.

Their recommendation came with the caveats that the towers that would be installed to measure wind speed and direction be removed within 60 days after the study concludes and that aircraft-warning lights are installed if they’re needed.

The township does not have any ordinances regulating the installation of wind turbines, though it has been discussed by planners. Polk and Franklin townships recently adopted ordinances regulating them, and neighboring Towamensing Township is working on one, as well.

Last summer, Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in Massachusetts became the first ski area North America to generate its own power from a wind turbine. Another in California plans to have windmills installed by 2010.

The lone $3.9 million turbine at Jiminy Peak produces 1.5 megawatts of electricity, supplying half of the ski area’s power, according to a statement from the resort. The three giant 123-foot blades attached to a tower taller than the Statue of Liberty need just a breeze – as little as 6 miles per hour – to generate electricity. Each blade makes a revolution about once every three seconds.

By Jeff Christman | Special to The Morning Call

mcall.com

25 July 2008