Invenergy hails benefits of wind energy; residents skeptical
Credit: By Dylan Johnson | Daily American | www.dailyamerican.com ~~
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The atmosphere got heated again at another meeting about a potential new wind farm on Shaffer Mountain.
Representatives from Chicago-based wind company Invenergy gave a presentation at a Shade Township supervisors meeting Thursday to about 20 residents and environmental advocates.
In his presentation, Michael Kaplan, Invenergy vice president of business development, hailed wind farms as a benefit to communities by providing additional tax dollars, land leasing revenues and jobs.
He said Invenergy provided about $30 million in tax revenue and $43 million in landowner revenue throughout the country last year. He said 100 to 300 jobs would be added during construction, along with maintenance and upkeep positions if the wind farm is built.
Laura Jackson, president of Save Our Allegheny Ridges, was incredulous, however, saying that townships may not get as much money from wind turbine property taxes in Pennsylvania as they would in other states.
Kaplan answered, saying that the township could enter an agreement with Invenergy to receive more money.
“We’re not pretending we’re tax experts,” he said. “It’s up to the townships to decide whether or not that’s equitable for them.”
Supervisors Chairman John Topka cited tax figures from two wind farms in Shade Township. He said the township receives $254 per year from one farm and $4,315 from another. The county receives approximately five times that amount annually because the county’s taxes are higher.
“Shade Township only has 3 mills of taxes,” he said. “So that’s good for the residents but bad for us.”
Terry Doran, president of the Folmont Property Owners Association, said he is concerned that some houses in his area are not selling because of their proximity to wind turbines.
“I’ve seen no decrease in property taxes and no visible benefit of those turbines,” he said.
Shade Township landowner Joe Cominsky also said he has been unable to sell his land because of the possibility of wind turbines in the area.
“The market definitely has dried up for me,” he said. “I’ve already felt that bite.”
Environmental advocates voiced concerns for wildlife in the area, such as bats and hawks, that could be hit by turbine blades.
Tom Schuster, Sierra Club representative and Windber resident, said the club does not endorse any particular wind farm project, but it is generally in support of turbines because they kill 17 times fewer birds and bats than natural gas and other energy sources.
He also added that wind energy companies can kill between 40 and 90 percent fewer bats by curtailing blade speeds while only losing 1 percent of energy generation.
At least one resident said he is in favor of the wind turbines. Other residents asked supervisors to amend the township’s ordinance to further restrict the turbines.
Kaplan said the project is years away and has months of testing left before Invenergy will decide whether to build.
“We’re in the infancy of the project at this point. The first step is to begin collecting wind data to see if the project can be economically viable,” he said. “At this stage, we don’t know the size, or what type of turbines or even if there will be a project at all.
“Late this year we will begin to kick off environmental studies to see if a project can be built.”
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