Enercon LLC officials appeared before the Packer Township supervisors and a group of residents Tuesday to talk about a proposed $250 million project to erect wind turbines to generate electricity on at least 3,500 acres on the Broad Mountain.
Jay Gartlan, CEO of the renewable energy firm, reviewed its plans and answered questions from the officials and residents.
“I support wind turbines in the township,” Supervisor Tom Gerhard Jr. said. “The board asked the Enercon officials to come to the meeting and wanted township people to be informed about what the company’s plans are for a section of the township. We don’t hide anything.”
Most of the wind turbines, which would be 50 to 80 feet high, would be on the 3,500-acre site owned by John Kovatch, according to Gartlan.
He declined to name neighboring landowners who might be interested in allowing some of the turbines to be built on their properties. Gartlan felt it was up to the landowners to divulge their names if they choose. Only Kovatch was willing to make his name public.
Gerhard voiced concerns about whether the turbines would be taller than the maximum 80-foot height being discussed by the company.
“We would hope the company would not have to build higher wind turbines than the 80-foot-high windmills, but I would still support it,” Gerhard said, adding he would rather support wind turbines than natural gas drilling.
Enercon, which operates three wind turbine farms in the nation, the closest being in upstate New York, hopes to begin testing soon on the Packer Township site.
“We will be testing the speed of the wind and the density of the wind to determine how high we must build the wind turbines, but we feel we probably won’t have to go higher than 80 feet for each one and that will make them barely visible to most people,” Gartlan said after getting a favorable response from the board of supervisors and the residents at the meeting.
Gartlan said the project could bring hundreds of jobs to the area in the form of trucking firms to haul stone, masons for concrete work and electricians to hook up lines, possibly to a substation in Nesquehoning where the wind-generated electricity will be tied into power grids.
The company likes to use local workers and contractors, according to Lehighton general contractor Joe Craig, who will be in charge of supervising the installation of the turbines.
“I think it’s such a fantastic opportunity,” Craig said.
The project would cost $200 million to $300 million, none of which would be township money, according to Gartlan.
He downplayed the impact the turbines would have on the beauty of the Broad Mountain, which is primarily forest land.
“We don’t want to be a whole lot higher than a tree, and any earth that is disturbed during the installation of the turbines will be replaced,” Gartlan said.
He also said few if any residents would hear the turbines’ blades turning or feel vibration from them.
Enercon officials were asked if the turbines will be as tall as those on Locust Mountain in Mahanoy and West Mahanoy townships, and Gartlan said “no.”
He said those wind turbines are more than 200 feet high; the company doesn’t believe the Packer Township turbines will have to be that high to generate the desired electricity.
Enercon will return to the board of supervisors in 90 days to show the results of the wind testing.
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