LEWISTOWN – Three representatives from the Germany-based company Volkswind presented their visions of constructing wind turbines on Jack’s Mountain to the Mifflin County Planning Commission Thursday at their regular meeting.
Volkswind had engaged in preliminary discussions with landowners in January, however, CEO Malte Huchzermeier; President of U.S. operations Jeffrey Wagner; and Project Manager Michael Easton provided a more in-depth look at the scope of this project Thursday afternoon.
Easton stressed the local and environmental benefits to building 37, 2.5 mega-watt turbines, that would span 8 miles of land. Easton said not only will the 50 to 60 landowners reap financial benefits, but potential jobs will become available for local coordination during development, construction and operations.
He added the most crucial aspect to this project would be fighting global warming and producing clean power production. One statistic he felt pertinent to the discussion is that one 2-megawatt wind turbine with a half-acre footprint is more efficient than needing to plant the two square miles of new forest necessary to offset the two megawatts of power from coal.
Easton said the project would disturb 100 acres of land, but would also power 259,296 homes a year.
Easton said there are two main phases incorporated in this project. The first is the evaluation period in which the company performs a number of tasks to gauge the feasibility of building the wind farm. These include measuring the wind energy potential, studying potential effects on wildlife and environment, studying interconnection to the transmission grid, finding a buyer for the power and obtaining local, state and federal permits. He said this process yields yearly acreage payments but no disruption to the land. This process lasts up to eight years.
The second phase, the operating period, can last up to 30 years and entail post constructions studies on wildlife, Easton said. There would be a one-time installation fee for building the turbines and tower, but there would also be an annual payment of fixed rent and royalty to the land owners. He said subtracting the total fixed annual rent paid for turbine site easements from the project’s gross revenues times a royalty rate equals the production bonus to be distributed among landowners.
Easton described the dimensions of the turbines as 37 tons per rotor – the windmill blades, 67 tons a nacelle – the device which will hold the rotor in place – and 200 tons a tower. He also addressed the functionality of the electrical system. He said there would be an insulated and underground 34.5 kV collector system that would be buried four feet below the finished grade.
He said Jack’s Mountain Road would have to be widened to make room for the cranes that have a 30-foot track width, but the road would be cut back to 16 feet once the operations were completed.
Huchzermeier gave a brief history of the viability of the company and its impact across the globe. Volkswind, established in 1993, has operating wind farms in Germany, France, England and Poland and are immersed in developing projects in U.S. states such as Iowa, Nebraska and Montana. Huchzermeier added the company received an “A” rating from Euler Hermes Rating, which is an independent rating agency for mid-cap companies. He said they are an established business that will seek the best product for the county.
“We believe the United States has the most potential to invest in,” Huchzermeier said. “With the huge landscapes, we can build larger wind farms.”
When asked about their decision to target Jack’s Mountain during the question-and-answer portion segment of the presentation, Easton said the mountain provides attractive features such as ideal wind conditions and transmission lines. He said Jack’s Mountain Road allows for easy access to get turbine equipment to the top of the mountain.
Wagner said they look forward to working with county administration and township organizations. The townships the project would cover include Brown, Union, Granville and Oliver. Volkswind has currently received seven signatures from landowners on a 29-year, 11-month lease.
In other business, the board briefly discussed the status of community development block grants. Community Development Administrator Jim Latierre said nine of the 11 applications were selected to receive funding at the Feb. 15 advisory meeting. He said more details will be available when the commissioners convene at 9 a.m. March 3 in the Mifflin County Courthouse.
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