Developing a wind farm from concept to an energy-producing business takes at least five years, according to an expert in the field.
“There are so many benefits, but it just takes time and every project has a different issue,” said Dan Lagiovane, project communications manager at EverPower Wind Holdings Inc., a company involved in developing wind power projects in seven states.
Rendell joins effort
On Tuesday, EverPower, former Gov. Ed Rendell, wind energy industry leaders and environmental advocates, announced the launch of ChoosePAWind and the initiative’s new website: www.choosepawind.com. The website touts the economic and environmental benefits of wind power for Pennsylvania.
“Wind energy has come a long way in the commonwealth,” Rendell said at the press conference in Philadelphia. “Choosing Pennsylvania wind products is a great way for energy consumers to show their commitment to sustainable energy and help to grow the alternative energy industry across the state.”
Valley has project
Presently there are 23 wind projects under development across Pennsylvania, including Penn Wind LLC of Shamokin Dam’s plan for a $30 million wind turbine project in Coal and East Cameron townships in Northumberland County.
Penn Wind chief executive officer Justin Dunkelberger said his proposal – which has been in the development stage since 2006 – to install three turbines on county property this winter was pushed back due to the permit process.
Design change delay
He said a design change in the size of the turbines, from 420 feet to 470 feet, requires a highway occupancy permit from the state Department of Transportation and that county officials were assisting the company.
County planning director Pat Mack said he was notified that Penn Wind was trying to obtain a transportation permit in mid-December and hasn’t heard a thing since, even during a recent visit by Penn Wind representatives, who have teamed up with EverPower.
“I would think it would be possible to have that resolved by now,” Mack said.
As of Friday, the property where the turbines are planned to be built has remained untouched.
“I don’t know where (Penn Wind) is at,” Mack said. “I’d love to get it done, but where are they?”
$50,000 on the line
Under a 29-year land lease agreement, even if the wind farm isn’t up and running, Penn Wind will be required to pay the county an annual $50,000 fee, starting in April.
Dunkelberger said he’s confident in the project and his ability to pay the fee, despite recently defaulting on a $255,000 loan he and his partners in DGP Power LLC took out to help fund a proposed $32 million solar farm project in Milton.
The Milton project has been taken off the drawing board due to financial problems, but Dunkelberger insists the wind turbines will soon be turning in Northumberland County.
Lagiovane said that after a company finds a good wind source, it must obtain property rights.
The land should be as close to the electrical grid as possible because it could cost more than $1 million a mile to lease, construct and maintain a transmission line.
Lagiovane added that the main impediments to wind farms are uncertainty over the availability of federal tax credits and competition from the natural gas industry. Congress recently voted down a tax credit extension providing wind operators with an income tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity produced from wind turbines.
Tax credit fears
Some companies are hurrying to complete projects before the end of the year, but Lagiovane said others are “taking a wait-and-see approach” and hoping Congress acts to extend the credit at another time.
The worry of some is that if they move ahead with a project on the chance of obtaining a tax credit to fund 13 percent to 15 percent of the cost and they end up not being qualified for it, Lagiovane said.
“Some are just putting projects on hold,” he said.
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