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Wind turbine in Pine became a non-issue  

Credit:  By Sandy Trozzo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, www.post-gazette.com 27 January 2011 ~~

When Pine officials approved plans to install a 120-foot-high wind turbine in the community park, nearby residents objected for several reasons.

Residents contended that the turbine would be noisy, an eyesore and would impact wildlife, particularly birds and bats that would fly into it.

None of the fears materialized because the wind generator never really got going, and now officials have hung a for sale-sign on the device.

“We basically had no problems because it wasn’t turning,” said Gisela Spallek of nearby Windwood Drive. “The concern was if the windmill was turning constantly, it would kill the bats and the birds. And because the windmill wasn’t turning that much, I don’t know if it had an impact.”

Pine supervisors decided Jan. 18 to seek buyers for the wind turbine, saying that it did not generate enough electricity. The reason, they said, was the area’s lack of wind.

“We predicted it, that’s for sure,” said resident Craig Merritt, also of Windwood.

Mr. Merritt said residents showed Pine officials data from the National Weather Service that showed wind conditions in the area. “It was below anything” conducive to wind generator operations, he said.

“Their efficiency drops off considerably in lower wind conditions,” he added.

National Weather Service spokesman Bob Reed said that the average annual wind speed measured at Pittsburgh International Airport – the closet place to Pine that is measured routinely – is 9 mph. Winter and early spring, from December through March, tends to be windier than the summer months, he said. He added that the airport is “relatively high,” and higher elevations get more wind.

Mr. Merritt said residents didn’t learn of the generator until the township asked for a height variance from the zoning hearing board.

“By the time we [found out about] this whole project, it was pretty far along. We tried to stop it at the zoning level,” he said.

They were successful, but only to a point. The zoning board did rule that the wind generator was too tall under the zoning code. However, the zoning code was being revised at the time, and the height restrictions were changed. Officials said at the time that the height restrictions were not changed because of the generator.

Pine received a $62,500 grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Energy Harvest Program to cover half of the cost of the turbine. The township budgeted the other $62,500 in its 2005 budget.

Scott Anderson, assistant township manager, said officials don’t know yet if they will have to repay the state for the grant.

The generator was approved by supervisors Feb. 22, 2005, and was up and running by the end of the year.

It just didn’t run very often.

Mr. Anderson said the wind charger generated approximately 4,650 kilowatt hours of electricity since it’s been up. “That’s not a whole lot,” he said.

Mr. Merritt said that data requested by residents showed that the charger generated $240 worth of electricity in one year. “That would power my house for a month in the summer.”

He said the lack of movement became a running joke in his family. “It’s like a big deal in the family if we are driving by: ‘Hey, look, it’s spinning.’ ”

He said that is the only wind generator he has ever seen that was placed among trees; others are out in a field or on a ridge. It was also next to a West View Water Authority water storage tower.

“It was terrible placement, on top of everything else,” he added.

Mr. Anderson said the township has already had some interest in the generator. They were placing ads in statewide publications and in Wind Today magazine.

“It’s a current topic and people are very interested in it,” he said.

“I’m happy if they decided to sell it,” said Mrs. Spallek, adding that she hopes somebody will buy it who “can use it in an area that will work.”

Source:  By Sandy Trozzo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, www.post-gazette.com 27 January 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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