The Schuylkill County Municipal Authority is looking into the possibility of putting wind turbines on properties it owns in Blythe, Cass and New Castle townships.
Wind farms have been in Schuylkill County since 2007 and this is the first time SCMA has taken steps to determine if it can use its land as a base for one. It would generate revenue for the authority, Patrick M. Caulfield, authority executive director, said after the authority’s July meeting Tuesday.
Before a deal can be struck with wind turbine operators Green Energy, Shenandoah, and EDF Renewable Energy, San Diego, Calif., the authority must get permission from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, according to Sudhir Patel, solicitor for the authority.
One issue involves a law protecting lands used for recreation, PA Act 70.
“It’s a state mandate requiring that certain lands be maintained for conservation and recreational purposes,” Patel said.
A copy of the act is available on the DCNR website at dcnr.state.pa.us.
On May 20, the authority sent a request to DCNR asking if the authority’s lands in Blythe, Cass and New Castle townships could be used for the establishment of a wind farm, Caulfield said in his monthly report.
“Green Energy is the company that is looking to potentially develop a wind energy farm on property owned by SCMA. Some of the land that SCMA acquired over the years is subject to Act 70. So one of the things SCMA wants to do in order to make sure if we enter into any kind of agreement with Green Energy or any of the companies they assign their rights to. We want to make sure the potential development of a wind energy farm is consistent with Act 70. Now we’re awaiting formal approval, or disapproval. We’re hoping to have a response back from the state shortly so we know if we can either go ahead with an agreement with Green Energy or follow additional steps to get the state’s blessing to move forward,” Patel said.
Caulfield and Patel did not know how many wind turbines could be put on their properties in those townships.
“We don’t know and Green Energy doesn’t know because the first phase of this would be to allow Green Energy to do a comprehensive wind study,” Patel said.
However, that study won’t be done until the Act 70 issue is resolved, Patel said.
Fran Green, Shenandoah, president of Green Energy, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
In a related matter, the authority gave Green Energy permission to do a “bat study,” a study of bat populations in the areas being considered for the proposed wind farm. “It began the week of July 1,” Caulfield said.
In other matters at Tuesday’s meeting, the authority approved its 2013-14 budget with no rate increases.
The 2012-2013 budget totalled $9,396,125. The authority’s 2013-14 budget comes to $10,372,562, according to Caulfield.
The last time there was a rate increase was in 2010. Before that, it was in 1993, Caulfield said.
The authority serves more than 30,000 customers in 25 municipalities, according to its website at scmawater.org.
In an 15-minute executive session Tuesday, the authority discussed the proposed wind farm and personnel matters, in particular negotiations with 19 of its employees, Patel said.
“The contract will expire in December. Rather than scramble at the last minute, we thought it was smart to begin the discussions, and negotiations have begun,” Patel said.
The authority has a total of 37 employees. The number of employees represented by the contract being negotiated is 19. They include plant operators, Patel said.
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