Foster Township Zoning Hearing Board last week continued a hearing on a proposal to build up to 25, 500-foot-tall wind turbines in three areas of the township.
EDF Renewable Energy is seeking a special exception from the board to install the wind turbines along with access roads, cables and a substation, according to the company’s zoning application.
One area is on Freeland Municipal Authority property near Upper Lehigh, another is coal property between Highland and Eckley, and a third is east of Eckley.
Doug Copeland of EDF Renewable Energy, who spoke about the project for nearly two hours during the hearing, said Tuesday that the company wants to work with the community and hopes the project, if approved, would be a source of pride.
Township zoning officer Damien Quick said the township has been fielding questions from residents, who have a lot of opinions on the project, along with questions and concerns. Many have come into the office to see a map of the proposed locations, he said.
EDF Renewable Energy wants people to understand the project, Copeland said, and the company often gets the same questions.
One area of concern is proximity to homes, and the company chose locations away from residences, Copeland said. The closest residences will be 1,600 to 1,700 feet from the turbines, but most will be about a half-mile away from homes, he said.
Another concern stems from noise associated with the turbines and the company is working to minimize any noise with residents not seeing a noticeable difference, Copeland said.
The company has also studied whether shadow flicker when the sun is behind the turbines’ blades would be an issue, he said. Some wooded areas may be affected, but not residences, as there are none to the east or west of the proposed locations, Copeland said.
People often raise the question about what happens when there is a fire, which happened few years ago at a Schuylkill County wind farm, he said. The fire was electrical, burned itself out and no one was hurt, Copeland said. The company would be sitting down with fire officials if the project moves forward to address the issue, he said. He also suggested fire officials talk to their counterparts in Bear Creek and Schuylkill County.
Freeland and municipal authority officials have been working with the company for several years, and EDF Renewable Energy has wind data from the area going back five years, said Lynn Falatko, a borough councilwoman. Last week, the company installed another wind tower in the area, Copeland said.
Newer, taller turbines capture more wind energy, and wind speeds are higher at higher elevations, he said. With Freeland’s elevation, the company has seen good wind, especially above the tree line, Copeland said. He noted that wind consistency is also factor they consider.
The company believes the wind farm will generate jobs in the area, as it strives to hire local, Copeland said.
“They’re decent paying jobs, if you’re not afraid of heights,” he said.
The crew would consist of about a half-dozen employees, and other services would also be needed in the area, Copeland said. The turbines have a life expectancy of 20 years, but well-maintained turbines have lasted 25 years. EDF Renewable Energy maintains turbines all across the country – some operating since the mid-1980s, he said.
The company also conducted bird and bat studies, finding no endangered species in the proposed area, Copeland said. It also signed a Wind Energy Voluntary Cooperative Agreement with the state Game Commission, which helps project managers avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts to wildlife.
“I don’t think anyone wants anything bad for Foster Township. We’re going to work together,” Copeland said.
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