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Summerhill Twp. leaders approve new wind farm

BEAVERDALE – Wind turbines will be coming to Summerhill Township after supervisors gave final approval to an application from EverPower to build a wind farm north and east of Route 869 outside Beaverdale.

About two dozen township residents attended a meeting Tuesday to hear about the project outlined by EverPower executives. A few voiced concerns about view and noise issues once the 24 turbines are operational.

Along with those planned for Summerhill Township, the project, dubbed “Highland North Wind Farm,” includes nine new turbines in Adams Township, EverPower official Michael Speerschneider said.

Cost of this second phase of the project in both townships is about $150 million, EverPower officials said.

In the first phase, Highland Wind Farm put 25 turbines in Adams Township that became operational more than a year ago, making it the first project in Pennsylvania for the New York-based EverPower.

The first-phase turbines have a height of 420 feet to the blade tip. The second phase, including those in Summerhill Township, will be taller, with the height estimated at 490 feet to the blade tip, Speerschneider said.

“We have the prior success of doing that (in Adams Township) and this application has complied with the (Summerhill Township) ordinance as laid out,” Speerschneider said.

Adams Township Supervisor B.J. Smith was on hand at the meeting in Beaverdale to lend his support to the project.

“It’s worked great for Adams,” Smith said.

EverPower officials estimated the $100,000 Adams is receiving from the first phase of the projects calculated out to 2.5 mills in property taxes.

The approval came with no discussion by the supervisors, but William “Hap” Evancic later called the project a “win-win situation.”

Summerhill Township stands to gain an estimated $100,000 in annual payments from EverPower for as long as the project remains in operation. The deal also provides a bond promising funds to cover decommissioning of the towers when they are no longer operational, EverPower officials said.

The financial boost to the township equals just less than 6.5 mills of local real estate taxes, township secretary Joe Burneff said Wednesday.

This second phase of Highland North was first reviewed for the Summerhill Township officials in February. Since that time, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit application has been reviewed by the Cambria County Conservation District and is in the hands of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP has given technical approval to the application, meaning no issues have been identified, Speerschneider said.

“We’re now just waiting for approval,” he said.

A majority of the windmills will be located on land belonging to AMS Land Co., with principals listed as Anthony and Michael Sossong. Eight will be located on land belonging to the Highland Sewer and Water Authority of Richland Township.

Summerhill Township resident Debra Dibert has some concerns about the project.

Dibert said she’ll be sitting in the middle of the windmill farm with nine to the left of her property and nine to the right.

“I don’t see why we need them. They’re ugly. And where is the power going?” Dibert asked. “We live in the woods, so we don’t have to see that kind of stuff. They’re noisy.”

Speerschneider said EverPower has reached an agreement with FirstEnergy to purchase the power generated by the turbines.

Concerns about property values for homes with a view of the windmills was expressed by township resident Eddie Locher Jr.

“Knowing there’s windmills up there is going to lessen the number of people who come to look at my house,” Locher said.

Speerschneider disagreed.

“There is no statistical evidence of change of property values. Most people like to look at them,” he said.

Summerhill Township board chairman Leland Bassett took the residents concerns in stride.

“You’re going to have folks angry no matter what you do,” he said.

Construction on the project will begin earlier next year, with completion in 12 to 18 months, Speerschneider said.