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Chicago wind company still eyeing Shaffer Mountain

After 20 months of research, Invenergy is still studying Shaffer Mountain’s viability for a wind farm.

The Chicago-based energy company submitted plans for three meteorological towers to the Somerset County Planning Commission in November 2016 to study the wind, wildlife and wetlands on Shaffer Mountain in northeastern Somerset County.

According to Beth Conley, senior manager of strategic communications at Invenergy, the project is still in the early stages. She added that it is too early to say when or if a wind farm will be built.

At a Shade Township meeting in April 2017, Invenergy officials said these wind studies can take years.

Dozens of residents attended that and other meetings with Invenergy spokespeople to voice their concerns about the wind farm potentially lowering property values and causing various ailments.

A study released by the Center for Rural Affairs last week said that wind farms do not cause any measurable effect on property values.

The study monitored the sale of more than 50,000 homes in 27 counties in nine states. All of the homes were within 10 miles of wind projects, 1,198 were within 1 mile and 331 were within a half-mile.

Laura Jackson has been a longtime opponent of wind farms in the area as the president of Save Our Allegheny Ridges. She said she is most concerned about the migratory raptors, song birds and bats that will cross the ridge and get killed by the turbines.

“We know turbines kill those animals,” she said. “Forest fragmentation is another one. They’ve made some drastic changes to the forest, and, once those turbines go in, those clearings are considered pretty permanent.”

Conley said Invenergy will listen to questions from residents in the area.

“All stakeholder questions are important to Invenergy and are considered as early stage development activities continue,” she said.

She added that no other areas of Somerset County are being considered by Invenergy for wind projects.

According to PJM Interconnection, an organization that coordinates the movement of electricity and evaluates applications from energy companies, a wind farm application by Invenergy was withdrawn on July 11. Conley said Invenergy’s Shaffer Mountain project is too early in the process to even submit applications to PJM.

Shaffer Mountain was previously the site for a wind farm study by Gamesa, of Madrid, Spain. Their plans were halted in 2012.

In response to the new study by Invenergy, municipalities such as Paint and Shade townships have enacted or strengthened their wind turbine ordinances.