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Wind companies lease local land  

Credit:  By CANDY E. PRICE, Daily News Staff Writer, huntingdondailynews.com, Aug. 20, 2013 ~~

Reports have surfaced that energy companies E.ON and VolksWind have leased 582 acres of land on Jacks Mountain, partially including Brady Township.

“We’re doing some development activities for a wind project, like other companies in the area,” said Matt Tulis, communications manager for E.ON.

Tulis said it is too early to determine if the proposed wind farm could generate jobs or economic development for Huntingdon County.

“We’re at an early stage of development; it’s a little too soon to be predicting anything,” said Tulis.

Tulis did note E.ON found some key qualities necessary for a wind farm on Jacks Mountain.

“When we’re looking at places to develop, we look for a good wind resource and good availability for transmission,” said Tulis. “Those are the two most important things.”

E.ON currently operates 11 onshore wind turbine sites across the United States.

“When we’re looking for places to develop wind power, we’re looking for a location where there are already high voltage power lines,” said Jeff Wagner, director of VolksWind USA. “In this location, there happens to be several high voltage power corridors, which is important because we have to connect to deliver our power.”

When asked about delivering the turbines, Wagner doesn’t anticipate a problem bringing the turbines into the area.

The turbines traditionally seen in the United States can be as tall as 260 feet, with rotor assemblies weighing 48,000 pounds and a generator component weighing 115,000 pounds. The structures also include a concrete base 50 feet in diameter that is nearly 8 feet thick in the center, weighing 58,000 pounds.

“We don’t foresee any problems delivering wind turbines to the area,” said Wagner. VolksWind is mainly developing Jacks Mountain near Lewistown. “We have access to a large highway in Route 322.”

“It’s in the very early stages,” said Wagner. “We won’t be starting construction this year.”

Wagner noted that VolksWind is in no rush to develop the area because their lease extends for quite some time.

“We have a development period during which we evaluate various aspects of the project and then there is an operating period following the construction of the turbines,” said Wagner. “In total, the period is less than 30 years.”

“We’re looking at placing no more than 20 turbines at the moment,” said Wagner. “That many turbines could produce a total of 40-50 megawatts of electricity.”

According to Wagner, developing the wind industry could be a major boon for the area’s economic development.

“Jobs are a major aspect of a project like this,” he said. “VolksWind has already engaged a variety of local vendors, from folks who conduct wildlife work to surveying to legal council. That’s just during development.”

“During the construction phase, there are usually dozens of folks working on the project and very often the contracts are with local companies,” Wagner said. “These local companies tend to be the obvious choice because they are familiar with the area and don’t have to travel or stay in a hotel.

“A project like this also pays the landowners very well during the operation period,” said Wagner “They get fixed rents plus royalty participation. It’s a major shot in the arm for the local economy.”

Wagner said wind energy provides benefits that are not available with other sources of power.

“It’s a fuel-free, emission-free source of power,” he said.

VolksWind currently operates three sites in the United States, predominately in the mid-west.

Amy Wise, executive director of Huntingdon County Business and Industry (HCBI), looked at the companies’ product and their embedment in Mifflin County from the perspective of transportation infrastructure.

“This is another opportunity in a long list that has gone somewhere where there is a four-lane highway,” said Wise in reference to VolksWind keeping the project close to access to Route 322.

“If you look at the development around Interstate 99 in Bedford County and Altoona and development in Centre County, and even Lewistown, with the addition of First Quality, it is plain to see the importance of and need for transportation infrastructure. Companies don’t look at Huntingdon County because there isn’t highway access,” said Wise.

Candy can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

Source:  By CANDY E. PRICE, Daily News Staff Writer, huntingdondailynews.com, Aug. 20, 2013

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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