PENN FOREST TOWNSHIP, CARBON COUNTY – In a meeting room packed to capacity, township zoners spent more than three hours Thursday night reviewing plans to put dozens of turbines on the scenic ridges surrounding Bethlehem’s water supply.
The meeting was stopped by 11 p.m. and officials said that the hearing would resume June 23, said Chris Mangold, a township resident who attended the meeting. Township employees on Friday declined to confirm the continuance, and directed a reporter to call back Monday.
The wind energy project has been proposed by Iberdrola Renewables, an Oregon company that bills itself as the second largest wind energy provider. Three years ago, Iberdrola signed a lease with the Bethlehem Authority, the financial arm of the city’s water business, for the land and has done testing to determine if it’s windy enough there to build a wind farm.
The project calls for 40 turbines across as many as 292 acres north and south of Hatchery Road. Thirty-seven turbines would be on property of the Bethlehem Authority. Three other alternate turbines are proposed on the nearby property of the Lehighton Water Authority.
Nearby residents, including a few living within a half-mile of the project, have petitioned the zoners to turn down the company’s request for a special exception, based on the health, welfare and safety of the community.
Some also argue that the turbines will disrupt a scenic ecosystem near where bald eagles nest and rattlesnakes burrow.
The Bethlehem Authority champions the project because it could reduce society’s reliance on fossil fuel, and provide at least $100,000 a year for the authority. The lease calls for Iberdrola to pay the authority 3 percent of gross revenue or $100,000 per year, whichever is greater.
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