On Thursday evening the Penn Forest Township Zoning Hearing Board will continue testimony on the special exception application of Iberdrola Renewables.
Iberdrola has requested a permit to erect 37 wind turbines on land belonging to the Bethlehem Water Authority.
Earlier this month the Lehighton Water Authority denied Iberdrola’s offer to place three turbines on its property.
The turbines will be 525 feet high and measure 300 feet in diameter.
The turbines are to be constructed across two mountainous ranges and will be visible in Penn Forest, Kidder, Polk, Towamensing, Franklin and Chestnuthill townships.
The turbines will also be visible along the Pennsylvania Turnpike Extension.
In the weeks since the first hearing, residents have been busy gathering information and ammunition to help in their fight against the plan.
A group of residents has hired a lawyer to represent them before the zoning hearing board and a GoFundMe page has collected $3,700 in one month to help pay for the legal bills.
In addition, the Facebook page “Say NO to the Bethlehem Watershed Wind Farm Project!” has 1,119 members and is adding new ones every day.
The page contains information on the negative impacts of the wind turbines and include shared articles and information.
Residents are stepping up as leaders and to set the tone for those in opposition to the project.
Marcus Laurence wrote on the page, “Iberdrola Renewables has made it known that they intend to bring a security team to the zoning board meeting on June 23rd because they feel that ‘anonymous threats’ have been made against their team. This is probably just another page from their playbook, “play the victim and look for sympathy.’ ”
“Our passion for honest information is the only weapon we have against a giant like Iberdrola,” Laurence wrote.
“Let everyone see that their need for security was unfounded. We have done a great job of asking people to come to the zoning board meeting to learn about the project for themselves. If people come to the meeting unsure of the impacts of the turbines, let them see Iberdrola for who they really are. Let Iberdrola continue to respond to our sincere questions about the future of our community with half truths and incomplete answers. The residents of Penn Forest Township will not fall for it. We know better.”
“They can dispute the property values studies all they want,” wrote Ron Woytowich. “I have yet to come across one that shows an increase in property values living near these machines.”
One frequent contributor to the page is Penn Forest resident Bob Alward.
Alward pointed out in a recent letter to the Times News that “hundreds of homes will literally be in the shadows” of the turbines and that the turbines will be lined up directly behind the new 903 Recreation Park where Penn Forest Township is investing over a million dollars to install sports fields.
Alward provided the Times News with a map, which highlights everything within a 2-mile radius of a number of the turbines.
The Bethlehem Water Authority has signed an agreement with the Nature Conservancy that allows for the installation of wind turbines.
Craig Poff, director of business development for Iberdrola Renewables, an umbrella company for Atlantic Wind, said, “We supply clean energy and when wind energy is utilized it offsets the use of fossil fuel. Wind has no emissions and does not contribute to climate change.”
Poff spoke about the market for the energy that would be generated by the wind farm, he said energy from various sources, such as coal, oil or wind, are collected and pooled. Each generating company sells to wholesalers who sell to customers.
When you use energy at home you are using energy that comes from different sources at the same time. Poff’s point is that the more clean, renewable energy that goes into the pool, the less fossil fuel that is burned and the less emissions that are released into the environment and the less impact on climate change.
“Hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes would be paid into the area, mostly into the school district,” said Poff. “Also, there would be at peak, 250 jobs created during construction and an additional 6 to 10 permanent, high paying jobs for maintaining the site.”
The hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at Penn Forest Volunteer Fire Company No. 1.
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