North East Township officials may soon set ground rules for wind farm development.
A Texas company is moving ahead with plans to build a commercial wind farm in the township and could break ground on the project this fall.
So it’s important to consider where wind turbines can and can’t be placed as well as other issues pertaining to wind farms, township officials said. Township planners are considering setback requirements for turbines and whether there will be areas of the township, such as the lakeshore, where turbines will not be permitted.
Planners will hold a public meeting on those ideas Monday and could submit an ordinance to township supervisors for approval later this spring.
“We don’t want windmills haphazard all over the township. We want to hear the concerns of residents and get their input as to whether they want to see windmills in the township at all, and if so, where,” North East Township Supervisor Vernon Frye said. “We want to be proactive and make sure that all of our residents, or at least most of our residents, are happy with what we come up with.”
Pioneer Green Energy, based in Austin, plans to build 50 to 75 wind turbines in an area roughly bounded by Interstate 90, Townline Road and the New York State line. The project would provide electricity to about 45,000 homes.
There’s strong incentive to break ground for the project this year or “at least have a real, substantial commitment to building” because of tax credits for wind and solar energy development extended through 2013, Pioneer Green Energy Vice President David Savage said.
The company is applying for permits, working with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to minimize potential effects on wildlife and continuing to lease land for turbines, Savage said.
The company had leased more than 6,000 acres for the project in late 2012, local property owner Tim Burch said. Burch has been a liaison between Pioneer Green Energy and local land owners.
In Somerset County, where there are more than 200 operational wind turbines, commissioners amended an ordinance to regulate turbine placement. The ordinance prohibits turbines within a distance equal to five times the turbine’s height – or 1,000 feet for a 200-foot turbine – from any residential or commercial structure, unless the property owner wants it. The ordinance also limits the east-west orientation of turbine blades to prevent strobe or shadow effects at sunrise and sunset.
People who live near commercial wind farms in Somerset County had complained about noise, vibration and strobe-like shadows from turbines more than 200 feet tall with blades 230 feet in diameter, county officials said.
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