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Laurel Ridge soon will make electricity

LIBERTY – A controversial wind farm project is about to go online after a seven-year wait. According to Bob Charlebois, managing director of the Duke Energy Co., of Charlotte, N.C., 30 turbines will produce 70 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 50,000 homes.

“We are expecting to be in commercial operations the end of September,” Charlebois said Tuesday.

Charlebois said the more than $140 million project has taken almost seven years get to the construction phase, “so we are looking forward to finishing the construction phase and getting online with the energy.”

The agencies involved granted Duke the go-ahead about two years ago, he said.

Though it is not subsidized with grant money, Charlebois said, the project “enjoys the production tax credit like any other wind project, based on kilowatt hours produced.”

Once online, the turbines will produce electricity that will be gathered using underground gathering lines, then transformed at a switchyard on site that Duke constructed, but that will be owned by First Energy. It then will be “injected into the grid, where it is sold to the Delaware Municipal Authority and then Delaware Electric Cooperative.”

All of the 400-foot towers have been erected and then they “have to be commissioned and connected into the switchyard, where test energy will be produced and then it will go commercial.”

There will be 10 to 15 full-time employees at the facility when it is up and running, he added.

Kurt Hausamman Jr., director of the Lycoming County Department of Planning and Community Development, said the project started out with about 40 turbines and ended up with the 30 that are there now.

The Laurel Ridge project started out at about 40 and ended up at 30 or so.

“It was a long time coming, the project was first proposed seven years ago and went through several legal challenges from residents living in the area that didn’t want it and that delayed construction by several years,” he said.

One of the residents, Maureen Wroblewski, of Roaring Branch, lives close to the turbines and said her feelings about them have not changed.

“It’s here and there is not much I can do about it. I still feel the same way, we moved here because it was such a beautiful area, and between that and the gas companies it certainly doesn’t look the same around here. But it is really beating a dead horse,” she said.

The turbines are on the ridgeline right next to her, so “they are very big, very close. I am dreading when they put all the lights on them,” she said.

Wroblewski said she “will never not look at them and cringe.”

“We moved here from the D.C. area and you could see stars here that you could never see there, and that will never be again,” she said.

Roxanne Landis, who lives a bit further away from the towers, just off Route 414, said she wasn’t sure how she felt about them at first.

“I didn’t understand a whole lot, but the idea the power produced will not benefit the locals is of a big concern,” she said.

“That’s the one thing I don’t like but I think they look kind of cool,” she said.

Landis said she can “pretty much see all of them.”

“I’m OK with them, but my main concern is we won’t benefit from it,” she said, adding “there is a more efficient design of windmills out there and I’m not sure why that design wasn’t used for this project.”