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Tyrone wind farm may expand

TYRONE – The firm that owns the 50-megawatt Sandy Ridge Wind Farm on Ice Mountain above the borough wants to expand it – potentially doubling the farm’s capacity.

“This is the first stage,” Algonquin Power Co. site representative Emmett Duprey told Borough Council Monday.

The 25-turbine farm, with 16 windmills on borough watershed property in Snyder Township and the rest on private ground in Taylor Township, Centre County, was constructed in 2011, after four years of development – which triggered opposition from environmental groups concerned about harm to birds, streams, wetlands and the integrity of the mountain forest in that area, part of which was in the Blair County Natural Heritage Inventory.

No resistance was evident on Monday.

The proposed expansion will be limited by the remaining 50-megawatt capacity of the 100-megawatt power line that delivers the electricity generated by the farm to the regional grid, which is managed by PJM of Norristown, Duprey indicated.

The environmental problems that opponents feared haven’t occurred, according to Mayor Bill Latchford.

The spinning blades of the Sandy Ridge turbines haven’t killed any birds of prey, Duprey said.

Beyond that, the company has been a good neighbor, according to Duprey, who spoke of donations to and cooperation with local organizations, including fire companies and permission for hunters, hikers and bikers to use the woodland roads of the wind farm.

“We’re easy to get along with,” Duprey said.

“It’s been a great partnership,” Latchford said. “I’d like to see it keep going.”

The other landowners are all in favor of the expansion, Duprey told council.

The number of additional turbines won’t necessarily be commensurate with the size of the megawatt expansion, according to Duprey.

The current turbines produce two megawatts each, he said.

The expansion won’t greatly enlarge the footprint of the current farm, which is located along Route 453 and Old Hoover Road, Duprey said.

The Sandy Ridge Wind Farm was built by Gamesa, then purchased by Algonquin, which will soon be renamed Liberty Power Co. because of a merger, according to Duprey.

The borough reaps more than $100,000 a year in payments from its portion of the farm, based on a 29-year lease agreement, Latchford said.

The payment is either a stated flat fee or a percentage of the income generated by the power produced, whichever is greater in a particular year, Latchford said.

The payments help keep taxes down in the borough and help pay for projects that improve life there for residents, Latchford said.

Asked whether environmental worries are likely to be aired over the proposed expansion, Latchford said, “We’ll have to see.”