New wind turbines are coming to Silver Spring Twp., and they’re nothing to be afraid of.
The township supervisors gave Eichelbergers Energy Co. approval Wednesday to add two new wind turbines to its Texaco Road property. There’s already one turbine on the property.
But the proposal was stalled when an unusual hypothetical question came up at the township planning commission’s July meeting – what if a blade ripped off the turbine, flew more than 200 feet to the edge of Eichelbergers’ property, continued well into the adjacent Arnold Fuel property, and hit and ruptured a fuel tank, leading to disaster?
The company came back recently with statements from the turbine manufacturers saying there’s never been an incident of a blade coming off the turbine.
“It was such a left-field question that’s never been asked before,” Mark Cummins of Eichelbergers said. “I didn’t know how to react.”
The planning commission’s chairman, Joseph Ricci, said he didn’t mean to stall the plan when he asked the question. He was just making sure all the bases were covered when it came to safety. When Eichelbergers came back with the information, the planning commission approved the plan.
“I didn’t expect there to be a danger when I asked the question,” Ricci said. “I just wanted to build the record and make sure our i’s were dotted and our t’s were crossed.”
Even if a blade could get loose, the likelihood of rupturing a tank is slim to none. Dave Martin of the National Weather Service in State College said it takes hurricane or tornado winds to move heavier objects – like a tree or lawn furniture. A turbine blade being blown 200 feet is not likely, he said. The turbines would be at least 200 feet from the property line and there’s additional distance to the tanks.
Some township residents expressed concerns after the issue came up at the July meeting.
At that meeting, resident Terry Moser suggested going back to the manufacturers to see if they had information that could alleviate concerns over safety issues. He said he was happy the manufacturers had been able to provide that information, especially if that was able to clear the way for more green energy in the township.
“I think it’s a real positive move,” Moser said.
The turbines will be working models that the company can show to customers who are looking to install a turbine at their home or business, Cummins said. The one that’s there now is 32 feet tall. The two new ones will be 60 and 80 feet. Having the different models lets customers compare the size and see what works best for them, Cummins said.
But the turbines aren’t just there for show. They’ll also help to power the company’s facility. The three turbines will generate about 1,600 kilowatt hours, cutting the facility’s energy bill in half. That translates into about $200 a month in energy savings.
There are more permitting steps the company will have to go through and then the turbines can go up. That’s expected in early October, Cummins said.
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