It has been said that there is a time and place for everything. It could also be said that a value can be assigned to everything.
Two German companies, Volkswind and E.ON, are actively planning to place wind turbines on Jacks and Stone mountains in Mifflin County to produce commercial electricity.
Let’s look at this project from a standpoint of time, place and value.
It would be hard to make a winning argument on a position that the time is not right for alternative energy sources. So it could be said that there is no better time for producing energy from wind than the present.
Where wind should be used to produce electricity is a much more complicated issue. The United States Department of Energy’s Wind Program and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory – NREL – have done a study and produced a wind resource map for the entire United States. When Pennsylvania, and particularly Mifflin County, are singled out you could hardly pick a less desirable place to put a wind turbine to produce electricity. According to the NREL study, the average annual wind speed for Mifflin County is from less than 9 mph to 10 mph at a height of about 250 feet. NREL considers our county marginal to fair for wind resource potential. The study also states that areas with annual wind speeds around 14.5 mph are generally considered to have suitable wind resource for wind development. Wind turbines on land operate at about 30 percent efficiency with best conditions, not so at our marginal to fair conditions, also efficiency declines over the years of operation to a point where they become uneconomical to maintain.
The turbines planned will tower more than 400 feet over our Mifflin County mountains, so perhaps the productivity data would be better than that shown here. The NREL map of the United States shows a wide band from Texas to Canada with average annual wind speeds of 15 to 20 mph. In these states there are large unpopulated areas where the wind resource could be used effectively with minimal human impact.
We should ask, with this being the case, why would a for-profit company propose such a project in Mifflin County? It could be because we the people of Mifflin County, along with other Americans, subsidize companies that develop renewable energy. We do this through tax money that our government pays to companies they consider benefiting our best interests.
To consider the value of wind turbines in our county, we need to look at the different factions involved. First, the companies planning the project: The companies stand to make a profit and would either sell their interest or maintain it as long as the profit continues. The owners of the property where the turbines would be placed would gain money from the leasing agreements they sign with the company. The rest of the citizens of Mifflin County and all of those who pass through our area to enjoy the natural beauty and other activities the mountains afford them need to assess the value the present conditions have for them. They need to do this because, without a doubt, the natural conditions of the mountains will forever be drastically changed. The roads to the mountain tops, the leveling of the mountain tops required for construction, the ever present view of large towers with turning blades, the noise generated by the blades, the removal of trees and vegetation, the alteration of the natural water table and flow, the effect of all these on wildlife and birds and the effect on the aesthetic beauty and human activities such as hunting, bird watching, hang gliding, soaring and hiking will forever be altered or made impossible.
I urge each of you who read this letter to consider what value you place on the present natural condition of our mountains. Consider how wind turbines on the mountains will alter your value. If you feel that, at best, the marginal benefit to society for a few seasons outweighs the permanent change to what is considered the character of Mifflin County, then do nothing. However, if you feel that the cost to you and the responsibility we all have to future generations is too high to sit back and allow this to happen under our watch, then I urge you to get involved.
Join Friends of Jacks Mountain – it’s free. Send your name, address, phone number, and email to one of the hawk watchers: Darrell Smith, 567 Mile Long Lane, Huntingdon, PA 16662. We will keep you updated on how you can help.
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