A controversial wind energy project proposed for the land surrounding Bethlehem’s water supply would be scaled back under a zoning application filed this month in a Carbon County community.
The application shows the number of turbines would drop from 37 to 28 in Penn Forest Township. The reduction would be to the northern most part of the project, putting the turbines farther than a mile from the nearest home there, the company says. The new proposal would also reduce the number of roads and construction impact on the project, according to Atlantic Wind.
“We’re continually listening to community concerns and remain focused on our effort to deliver a clean energy and economic development opportunity to the region,” spokesman Craig Poff said in a statement. “We’re constantly evaluating ways to make every wind farm have as small a footprint as possible, and as a result, we submitted an application for a Penn Forest wind farm that takes advantage of newer turbine technology to shrink the number of turbines.”
The project is proposed on 260 acres of land owned by the Bethlehem Authority, the financial arm of the city’s water business.
Steve Repasch, executive director of the Bethlehem Authority, said the scaled down proposal will not reduce Atlantic Wind’s payment to the authority. The 2013 agreement between the authority and Atlantic Wind, a subsidiary of Avangrid Renewables calls for a $10,000 annual payment for five years as the project went through the planning phases.
That annual payment was scheduled to bump up to $100,000 this year. The authority agreed to delay that $100,000 payment this year by a month, Repasch said.
After the turbines begin producing energy, the authority will get $100,000 or 3 percent of the gross revenue, whichever is higher.
Atlantic Wind’s latest proposal is scheduled to go before the Penn Forest Township Zoning Hearing Board March 1.
The turbine project has generated backlash among residents who have packed zoning meetings in the townships since 2016. Residents have argued it would hurt property values, the environment and the region’s tourism industry.
Last year, Atlantic Wind took out a legal notice that it had “deemed approval” of its original 37-turbine proposal because the zoners missed a legal deadline.
A few days after the notice was published, the zoners resumed the hearing, which Atlantic Wind did not attend, and rejected the zoning requests. Two residents have since appealed the project to Carbon County Court.
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