The Bethlehem Authority’s search for a partner to develop wind energy at the city’s Pocono reservoir may have ended Thursday with a City Council committee approving an agreement with an Oregon-based company.
The unanimous Public Works Committee decision was with Iberdrola Renewables of Portland, Ore., which could install as many as 30 wind turbines on the reservoir property and potentially generate not only electricity but $400,000 per year to the authority.
“$400,000 is a wild guess, but not out of the realm of possibility,” saidauthority director Stephen Repasch.
To finalize the deal, it still needs approval from council which is set to vote on it this month.
Iberdrola business developer Craig Poff said the lease agreement would start with a 10-year licensing phase during which the company evaluates the suitability of the site in areas such as turbine impact on wildlife and the environment and measuring wind to determine how much electricity can be generated.
During this phase, the authority would be paid $10,000 per year and although they have 10 years, Poff said, “Rule of thumb says it could be three to five years.”
The second phase includes preparing the site with roads capable of handling the turbine assembly and installing the turbines that Poff said could be between 20 to 30 with 30 being a likely number.
Another payment would come to the authority at this point that Poff said would be a one-time, $1,000 per turbine.
When the turbines are set to generate power, the company moves into a 25-year agreement and begins paying the authority a minimum of $100,000 per year or 3 percent of gross revenues or whichever is higher.
Repasch said the $400,000 estimate is based on many conditions such as 30 operating turbines, electricity selling at $80 per kilowatt hour and an average amount of produced power.
If after 25 years the company, which would be doing business under the subsidiary Atlantic Wind LLC, decides the operation is financially viable, authority attorney James Broughal said they would enter into a 26-year agreement to continue operations.
The turbines would be set on the mountain ridges within the 13,000-acre watershed in Carbon County and away from reservoir.
Poff said turbines would be between 250- to 350-feet tall with each capable of generating power for more than 500 homes.
City Councilwoman Karen Dolan said she favors clean, renewable energy and although turbines have a visual impact on the landscape, “I’m willing to put up with these nuisances.”
A deal with another company, Call Mountain Wind, derailed in 2011 when the two companies that composed Call Mountain – Delsea Energy of NJ and Citizens Energy of Mass. – disagreed on the terms of the agreement.
Charles Malinchak is a freelance writer.
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