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New windfarm planned for Somerset

A 60-turbine wind facility is planned for the Big Savage Ridge Area in southern Somerset County.

EverPower Wind Holdings Inc. announced the project on Friday. The Twin Ridges Wind Farm will be located on about 8,500 acres in Southampton, Northampton, Larimer and Greenville townships. It will be the largest wind farm in Somerset County.

Only about 3 percent to 5 percent of that acreage will have turbines on it; the rest includes the road system and other property, said company spokesman Daniel Lagiovane. A rough rule of thumb is 30 to 50 acres per turbine to provide adequate exposure to the wind, setbacks from homes and roadways and spacing between turbines. Each turbine’s concrete foundation pad is about 30 feet in diameter.

“We’re in the advanced development stage,” Lagiovane said in a telephone conversation.

The roads and site work will be done first, with groundbreaking for the turbines set for late 2011. The site is to be operational in 2012. The turbines will generate up to 150 megawatts, which is enough energy to power more than 40,000 homes.

“We are very excited to announce this project,” Harry Benson, senior director of development for EverPower Wind Holdings, said in a written statement. “Twin Ridges Wind Farm will bring significant economic activity to the region. It will also reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels, mitigate the rising cost of electricity and decrease the emissions associated with other sources of energy.”

The land is forest and farm land, Benson said in a telephone conversation.

“What is unique is that we’ve tried to involve as many landowners as possible – over 65,” he said. “They will either have turbines on their property or access agreements.”

Landowners will receive approximately $1 million to $2 million per year in royalty, easement and other payments.

The company is in the process of completing agreements with landowners. Somerset County Planning Commission Director Bradley Zearfoss said paperwork has not been filed with that office. Lagiovane said the paperwork is being completed and the submission is expected this year.

The company contacted the Somerset County commissioners by e-mail earlier this week to arrange a meeting, Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes said.

“We’ll try to do that in the coming weeks,” she said.

People will be able to see the wind facility from the Great Allegheny Passage. Trail coordinator Brett Hollern could not be reached for comment.

The company has developed an unusual agreement that will benefit the four townships. EverPower Wind Holdings will pay the townships $1,600 per megawatt produced in the township, Benson said. The four townships are expected to share up to $240,000 a year. That is in addition to the real estate taxes that will be paid to the county and the school districts. The Berlin and Meyersdale school districts will divide up to $93,000 per year. Somerset County will receive up to $37,000 a year.

During construction approximately 200 full- and part-time workers, mostly drawn from the local labor pool, will be required to build access roads and construct turbines. An additional $5 million will be spent locally on construction materials such as steel rebar, crushed aggregate, concrete and fencing, according to the company.

Once the wind farm is operational, seven to 10 full-time employees will be required to operate and maintain the project. These workers will live locally and their annual earnings will exceed $400,000, the company said. Additionally, almost $2 million of local goods and services will be required for its operation and maintenance.

“We are committed to developing projects that are environmentally sensitive to the area and have the least amount of impact on communities,” Benson said. “We look forward to working with local, state and federal officials to ensure the Twin Ridges Wind Farm meets all regulations and is an asset to the region.”

EverPower has one commercial wind farm in operation, the 62.5-megawatt Highland Wind Project in Cambria County. Construction of the Highland North Wind Farm, a 75-megawatt wind farm also located in Cambria County, is expected to begin before the end of 2010. Additional projects in Ohio, Oregon, Washington and New York totaling approximately 600 megawatts of capacity are targeted for construction over the next three years, the company said.

EverPower Wind Holdings develops, owns and operates large-scale wind farms and sells electricity generated from its farms to local utilities, which purchase this electricity for resale to consumers and businesses. The company has offices in New York City, Pittsburgh, Portland, Ore., and Bellefontaine, Ohio.