Yet another session in the ongoing hearing to consider construction of 650-foot-high windmills in Packer Twp. is set for Jan. 16.
The township also enters the new year giving consideration to a proposal for a hydroelectric plant powered by acid mine-polluted water.
The Packer Twp. Zoning Hearing Board has been holding hearings into the proposal by Liberty Power to build almost two dozen wind turbines atop the Broad Mountain in the township and Nesquehoning borough.
The hearings, which began in the summer, have lasted over more than a dozen evenings of two to three hours each.
Liberty wants to build a 4,000-acre wind farm at a cost of between $125 million and $145 million consisting of 26 wind turbines that would generate 245,000 megawatts, or 245 million watts of electricity.
There would be 21 larger turbines. Each of two blades would be 238 feet, or a 476-foot diameter. The height of the hub – where the blade turns – from the ground would be 418 feet. The height from the ground to the top tip of the blade would be 656 feet.
Each floor of an office building is between 10-15 feet, which means 656 feet would be, on the low side, about 60 floors. That would be placing downtown Hazleton’s tallest building, the Hayden Tower at the Markle – which is 10 floors – on top of itself five times.
There will be five smaller turbines, with a blade length of 189 feet, a rotor diameter of 374 feet, a hub height of 263 feet, and a height from the ground to the top tip of the blade of 452 feet.
The proposed facility would take a year to build. During construction, the facility will provide between 100 and 120 jobs, and one or two full-time jobs when it goes into operation, Liberty officials said.
Liberty expects the project to bring between $12 million and $15 million into the local economy. The expected life of the plant is 20 years.
With a home office in Ontario, Canada, Liberty lists $10 billion in assets.
Many township residents have expressed their concern for the proposal, and have said they are against it.
A Pottsville firm, Grid Balance Hydropower LLC, has been granted a four-year permit to do a feasibility study into building a hydroelectric plant atop Spring Mountain in Banks and Packer townships, and use the acid mine drainage from the Quakake Tunnel – which its 25-page application says has an output of 14 million gallons of acid mine water per day – to turn turbines to produce 40,000 megawatts of electricity.
There are three options in the proposal to store the water to turn the turbines. One is to build three dams that would be filled with acid mine water to feed the plant. One of the dams would be located in Junedale. Although Junedale’s water supply system is closed, outgoing Banks Twp. Supervisor Joe Clark fears the acid mine water could seep into the system if there are any leaks in it.
The supervisors have submitted information supporting their opposition to the proposal.
Clark said the principal of Grid Balance, Paul DiRenzo, has been denied three times by Blythe Twp., Schuylkill County, to build a plant there.
The hydroelectric plant proposal, and a project to clean the tunnel’s acid mine water, are independent projects according to the Department of Environmental Protection, said Colleen Connolly, community relations coordinator for the office in Wilkes-Barre.
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