VALLEY VIEW – About 20 citizens wanted to hear more about the potential for a wind farm to be erected in their Hegins Township neighborhood Tuesday.
What they discovered was their inquiries to Nicholas Cohen, principal of Clean Air Generation LLC, of Waverly, were a little premature.
Tuesday’s hearing before the Hegins Township supervisors was required because CAG filed a substantive validity challenge to Hegins Township’s zoning ordinance and was asking for a curative amendment. The Scranton-based renewable energy company is considering developing a wind energy farm on Rausch Creek property in an S-3 special purpose mining zone, although no project has been proposed. CAG would like to see wind energy development as an approved use in an S-3 zone. The S-3 is the only zoning district where the wind is strong enough to support a project, Cohen said.
Solicitor Donald G. Karpowich, Drums, representing Hegins Township, oversaw the hearing. He said the township supervisors could consider if they thought the current zoning ordinance was defective. They could either adopt the curative amendment as proposed by CAG, or could adopt one of their own.
Karpowich said he may recommend that the supervisors continue the hearing until next month, and in the meantime, they could consult with the Schuylkill County Planning Commission and the township planning commission.
Questions were raised about the exact numbers of possible wind turbines that could be erected, their height, distance apart, placement on the mountain ridges, economic benefits of a wind farm, “green tax credits,” potential harm to wildlife, noise and light levels.
Cohen said it was just too early to answer some of those questions about the potential project they’re calling “Anthracite Ridge LLC” and that some of the information was proprietary.
Cohen has 14 years of executive level experience in energy project development with coal, gas, wind and solar power and had previously worked for Emberclear Co., of Houston, Texas. Under cross-examination, it was determined that Cohen is the sole employee of CAG. Tomer Droval of Doral Group Renewable Energy Resources Ltd., an alternative energy developer based in Israel, has 40 employees and is also partnering with CAG on any potential project in Hegins Township, according to Cohen.
CAG reported that there are 25 “utility scale wind farms” in Pennsylvania, including the Locust Ridge site near Ringtown/Mahanoy City.
Cohen deferred several questions, but said, typically the turbines are not closer than 500 feet to each other; and are usually two rotor-lengths apart. Engineering work and manufacturer information also determine their placement. Wind farms typically have more than a couple turbines, usually 10 or more.
CAG entered a land lease and wind easement agreement with Rausch Creek Land LP, of Valley View, in March, according to Rob Feldman, Rausch Creek’s land use director. Feldman also attended the hearing. The agreement encompasses approximately 12,672 acres on several parcels. The wind farm could also be in parts of Porter, Frailey and Tremont townships. Those townships address zoning through Schuylkill County.
Attorney Charles B. Haws, of Reading, opened the hearing, calling Cohen to testify first.
Those offering cross-examination of Cohen included James P. Diehl, of Pottsville, representing Hubley and Porter townships; Martin J. Cerullo, of Pottsville, representing the Schuylkill County Airport Authority; and Bruce Anders, of Wilkes-Barre, representing Kris Wetzel and Rocky Slope Inc., objectors with adjacent property.
Jack Varaly, of Wilkes-Barre, a special consultant hired by Hegins Township; and Bill Willard, airport manager, also attended the hearing.
In addition to Cohen, others slated to testify on behalf of CAG were Mark Lilly, founder and chief science officer of TrendLine Insights LLC, San Francisco Bay Area. Lilly offered meteorological information, wind resource assessment and data analysis.
Kevin E. Parzyck, president of STE Development LLC, of La Grange, Illinois, is a renewable energy consultant who was also scheduled to testify.
Lilly answered questions from Karpowich about the “met towers” which are used to collect wind data. Lilly said there were five towers installed, one in 2007, one in 2008, two in 2010 and one in 2011. All were removed by 2015 or 2016. The towers were erected by another company and were not in Hegins Township. There is one existing tower measuring data today, however, it is not in Hegins Township either.
Several citizens were able to direct questions to CAG representatives, if it was determined they resided or had property within close proximity to a potential wind farm site. Among them were Jason Unger, Sacramento; Guy Julian, Hegins; Ralph Lucht, Hegins; Roger Wetzel, Valley View; and Sue Ann Braconaro, Hegins.
Cohen said the project is still in the feasibility stage, and based on the wind data gathered, it’s feasible to have a wind farm in the Hegins area.
After more than 2 1/2 hours of testimony, Karpowich called for a five-minute break, before the hearing was slated to resume. The rest of the hearing was held after press deadline.