A group of Penn Forest Township residents is trying to stop a wind farm from being built in the township.
Atlantic Wind of Rador applied for a special exemption permit to build wind turbines and an operations and safety building off Hatchery and Reservoir roads in Carbon County. The Penn Forest Zoning Hearing Board will review the Bethlehem Watershed Wind Farm Project permit at a hearing scheduled for May 12.
The company hopes to build 40 wind turbines on a 10,000-acre piece of property it would lease from the Bethlehem Authority, according to Paul Copelman of Iberdrola Renewable, owner of Atlantic Wind. The turbines are typically 1,000 feet or more apart. One of the company’s wind farms in Texas has more than 200 turbines.
Several residents signed a petition opposing the project. Their concerns included noise, irritation from shadow flicker, the visual impact on the landscape and the effect on tourism and the local economy.
Penn Forest resident Heather Orlandini said she and others are against it because of its proximity to homes, destruction of wildlife and habitats, health effects, economic impact on tourism and home values. She believes there are better locations for the project.
“The Stony Mountain Ridge, where eagles, osprey and mountain lions live, is not the place,” she said.
Dennis Steirer said township officials, upon advice of counsel, would not comment about where it stood on the project.
“There has to be something the township is getting and not telling us about. Otherwise, why would the township let them put these turbines in place without getting something from it?” he said.
Copelman said a number of factors make the Penn Forest site attractive to the company.
“We evaluate the wind resource and how it behaves,” he said. “There’s a transmission line that goes across this site, and the ability to interconnect with the power grid is important. And the environmental compatibility of the site is another major factor.”
The project still must go through local, state and federal approvals before it can be built. If it receives approvals, it would take between one and two years to build.
The site would have a permanent staff of operations and maintenance personnel. The company hires from the local community trades schools and the military, Copelman said. And he estimates it would generate about $120,000 a year in taxes for Penn Township, money that would mostly go towards education.
Opponents of the project will hold a community meeting at 4 p.m. on May 6 at the Hickory Run Club House. The meeting is open to the public.
“We are standing together and vowing to fight this with every resource that we can muster,” Orlandini said. “The township has tried to keep this under wraps and are now seeing how strong the people of the Poconos can be when we stand up for something we believe in.”
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