FISHERTOWN – A Massachusetts-based energy company is studying the potential for wind turbines on the ridges in East St. Clair, Bedford and South Woodbury townships.
Representatives from Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) presented preliminary sketch plans for a meteorological tower to East St. Clair Township supervisors during the board’s regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.
“We’re in the very early due diligence stage to understanding if the ridge could support wind power,” John Hafner, director of the project, said.
About a dozen residents and members of Save Our Allegheny Ridges (SOAR), a group dedicated to the preservation and protection of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny mountain ridges, attended the meeting and asked the energy company representatives about their future plans.
“I’m very concerned about the wind project,” Laura Jackson, a member of SOAR, said after the meeting. “Turbines can cause a lot of ecological damage.”
Jackson said the turbines would be detrimental to the ridges of Dunnings and Evitts mountains, saying they cause watershed problems, are harmful to wildlife like bats, birds and snakes, and can be annoyances for nearby residents. She said they also degrade the visual appeal of the ridges.
SOAR has opposed different wind turbine projects across the region in the past, including proposed turbines in the Dutch Corner area between 2005 and 2012. That project was shelved in 2012 due to low energy prices and a loss of federal subsidies.
“That was a cause for celebration, but we knew the mountain was still vulnerable,” Jackson said.
Hafner said turbines in the area would likely be at least two years away in order for the company to conduct proper studies, beginning with the 196-foot meteorological tower.
The tower will replace an existing tower that was previously installed on the property belonging to the James Webb family at the corner of the three townships. Township solicitor Brad Allison said that tower never received the proper permits when it was installed a handful of years ago by another company.
“The law dednitely was not complied with,” Allison said, noting at the time there was uncertainty about which municipality the ridge-top property was located.
Hafner said the meteorological tower includes a number of different sensors that will measure wind, temperature and pressure to determine the viability of wind turbines on the ridge.
“Effectively, you gather the data, you record the data for a lengthy period of time – usually at least six to 12 months – and with that data you are able to extrapolate what the wind resource will be,” he said.
Hafner said the company has land lease agreements with about 10 property owners in East St. Clair,
Bedford and South Woodbury townships for the potential wind turbine project.
“Land real estate is the very drst thing we do in every project,” he said.
The company believes the ridge could support between 10 and 15 turbines, but Hafner said that is a preliminary projection.
Michael Resca, vice president of development with CPV, said the turbines could be 400 to 450 feet tall.
“There’s an ability to go even higher, that’s where the industry is going,” he said.
Hafner and Resca both said it was too early to know the location of the wind turbines.
Township resident Andrea Burkhart was one of the residents who expressed some concern about the proposal. Burkhart said she just purchased property on the ridge last week.
“I’m just wondering will the property owners dnd out when all of this is going to happen,” she said. “I just bought property on that ridge-top and I just found out yesterday about this.”
Vicky Ritchey-Stanley, who lives along Blackburn Road, said the public wants to be informed about the proposals.
“We really care about what may be going on,” she said.
Resca said the company will hold public meetings throughout the process. He cited the company’s natural gas combined cycle electric generation facility under construction in Jackson Township, Cambria County as an example of their procedure.
When that facility was being proposed, the company held a public information meeting to answer questions on various aspects of the project. That was attended by about 400 people. Jackson said members of SOAR will attempt to educate the public about its concerns with wind turbines. She said property owners refusing to sign easements to the company could help prevent development.
“We will try to protect our forested mountains,” she said.
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