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Lack of cash stalls wind farm project

SUNBURY – Penn Wind CEO Justin Dunkelberger informed the Northumberland County commissioners Tuesday that he doesn’t have the financing or the $50,000 land lease payment due April 20 to move a proposed $30 million wind turbine project forward.

At the same time, Dunkelberger introduced Kevin Sheen, senior director of development from EverPower, to the board. Sheen offered to lease the 75 acres of land in Coal and East Cameron townships for about $2,000 a year with plans to develop a 40-megawatt, 15 to 20 turbine wind farm on the property within a year or two, if federal tax credits supporting the industry are extended.

“It’s a travesty,” Commissioner Stephen Bridy said of Dunkelberger’s admission that he doesn’t have the payment and will have to bow out of the deal after working with the county for six years to develop three wind turbines on county land and three more on privately owned property.

As far as Sheen’s proposal, Bridy said he believes the county could collect much more for the property and would like to consider other offers.

No one else has expressed much interest, though, said Commissioner Rick Shoch, the board chairman.

“If no one else is waiting in the wings, isn’t it better to get $2,000 rather than nothing?” he asked.

Commissioner Vinny Clausi declined to comment.

Shoch said he’ll confer with the county solicitor on how far he can get involved in negotiations with EverPower since he serves as solicitor for the Point Township supervisors, and Dunkelberger is one of the supervisors.

Dunkelberger did not respond to a call for comment about his company’s failure to pay the $50,000 fee and the collapse of the 29-year lease agreement to place three wind turbines on county property.

Sheen said his company is interested in pursuing the venture in Northumberland County and would agree to the same terms as Penn Wind, which includes providing the county with 6 percent of the gross profits from electricity generated by the wind turbines.

“We all recognize 6 percent may never happen, but frankly that’s more than anyone else is offering,” Shoch said.

Sheen said his company, which employs 42 in Pennsylvania, has a track record that includes two projects in operation in Cambria County and two more under development in Somerset County.

“We’re looking to expand,” he said.

He said EverPower would partner with Penn Wind, providing the local company with financing to develop its deal.

“The commissioners had expectations from Penn Wind that didn’t come to fruition, but frankly the project is very close,” Sheen said.

“They’re not going to get the $50,000 on April 20 that they were promised and I appreciate there may be some disappointment, but we’d like to come in with a clean slate.

“We’re already in other communities and we’ll get this project to the finish line.”