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Wind turbine tower at Ridge Center to be taken down

The wind turbine tower at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center is coming down.

Officials still believe wind energy is good, but said the structure’s location was an issue.

“In the right applications, we think natural energy – wind, solar – is very positive,” said Harry Leslie, operations manager at Presque Isle State Park. However, he added, “Site selection is critical.”

The wind turbine near the entrance to the park’s Ridge Center hasn’t been generating energy since October 2011 when part of the unit fell from the 120-foot tower on an especially gusty day. Leslie said a crew will start setting up fencing around the area on Tuesday and tower demolition should occur June 11 and 12.

The job was awarded to Konzel Construction of Erie, Leslie said. He said the bid price was $47,400 but the final cost is likely to be less because of a decision not to remove a concrete pad. He said funding is coming from the state’s major projects money.

The monopole tower was installed in 2007 with a three-blade wind turbine at the top that fed into the power grid used by the Ridge Center. At its maximum, the turbine provided about 8 percent of the electric needs of the building that houses park and other offices, a gift shop, cafe and theater.

But the turbine also damaged the building.

Leslie said that under certain conditions, “ice shedding” occurred. He said the blades would throw chunks of ice as far as 100 feet. At least a couple of chunks punctured the Ridge Center roof.

“We saw pieces that weighed several pounds,” Leslie said.

Officials were concerned that the ice could hit people or cars in the center’s parking lot.

Leslie said officials also were never able to determine exactly why part of the unit and the blades fell and couldn’t get an assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. “We just didn’t think it was a good thing to put back up,” he said.

Another wind turbine above a 120-foot lattice tower will remain in operation at Presque Isle. Because of that unit’s location at Barracks Beach, which attracts fewer people in winter, concern about ice shedding is less.

The Barracks Beach wind turbine sometimes provides more than enough power for the nearby Stull Interpretive Center, Leslie said. He said park officials are working on getting a credit to be applied toward the Ridge Center electrical bill.