Broad Mountain turbines would reach 656 feet
Robert Miller, project manager for Algonquin Power, talks about the proposal to build 21 wind turbines ranging between 450 and 656 feet tall on the Broad Mountain. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS
DAVE ROWE/TIMES NEWS
Residents filled the cafeteria at Weatherly Area Middle School Wednesday night for a zoning hearing regarding wind turbines on the Broad Mountain. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS
A map displayed at Wednesday’s zoning hearing shows the location of 21 proposed wind turbines on the Broad Mountain.
The newest proposal to build a wind energy farm on the Broad Mountain in Packer Township calls for 21 turbines ranging in height from 452 feet to 656 feet.
Residents filled the cafeteria at Weatherly Area Middle School Wednesday night as the township zoning hearing board began what is expected to be a lengthy approval process for the project.
The proposed wind farm would be located on nearly 4,000 acres, all but 440 of which are owned by Kovatch Enterprises Inc. The rest is owned by Hazleton Electric Supply Inc. The entire site is zoned A-1 agricultural.
It would produce 80 megawatts, which is enough to power 25,000 homes for a year.
If approved, the project would be developed and operated by Broad Mountain Power LLC, a subsidiary of Algonquin Power, a Canada-based multibillion dollar company which operates wind, solar and hydroelectric power facilities.
Algonquin is currently changing its name to Liberty Power, an official said.
The township’s zoning hearing board must vote whether to grant a special exception to allow the wind farm in the A-1 zone.
Under state law, the zoning hearing board has to determine whether a wind farm would have a negative impact on the “health, safety and welfare” of township residents. If it does, they could deny the special exception.
Robert Miller, project manager for Algonquin Power, testified to the board that the project will benefit the area by increasing property tax revenue and providing green renewable power.
“The wind farm, once it’s constructed, will produce carbon-free green, clean electricity with essentially no environmental impact,” Miller said.
Algonquin acquired the project from another renewable energy developer last year.
They rolled out a new proposal with a smaller number of towers, but at a greater height.
Sixteen of the towers would have blades reaching 656 feet into the air, and a 418-foot tower.
Five additional turbines would have blades reaching 452 feet in the air, with a 263-foot tower. They would all be produced and maintained by Siemens Gamesa.
Four additional meteorological test towers, standing over 400 feet, would be placed on the site. Four existing towers which were placed by a previous developer will be taken down.
Previous proposals for a wind farm on Broad Mountain called for many more turbines than Algonquin’s, spread over a larger footprint.
Miller said that the current proposal will be more cost effective and have less environmental impact. The way Algonquin plans to accomplish that is by building a smaller number of turbines which are larger in size.
“If you study the history of turbines, they’re continuing to get taller and larger because they produce more power cost effectively and you also significantly reduce the number of turbines that go to a site, therefore you reduce the impact on the site,” he said.
A group of about 100 residents who are concerned about the project hired an attorney to represent them in the hearing. Bruce Anders also recently represented residents of Penn Forest Township, who were opposed to the plan to build wind turbines there.
Anders objected to Miller using tax revenue and the number of construction jobs the project will create as testimony in the hearing, which deals only with the impact of the proposed plan.
Brian Stahl, attorney for Broad Mountain Power, said impact on property values is part of the zoning process.
“Mr. Miller is here to provide a broad-brush overview of the entire project and what it entails. Part of that entails the economic benefits that will flow into the community, and the state’s renewable energy requirements,” Stahl said.
Miller said the project will help Pennsylvania meet federal standards for the amount of renewable energy it uses.
Anders asked pointed questions to see if the developers had provided all the necessary documents to support their proposal.
He said the project could create flickering shadows on homes in Packer Township when the sun shines from the south in the morning. Miller said his company has hired experts to refute that.
Anders brought up a turbine fire in 2013 in California which caused thousands of acres to burn. Miller said Algonquin employees would be testifying at a future hearing.
Anders asked if there would be anyone in the area monitoring the site once the project is completed. Miller said there will be one to two full-time employees, but most large commercial wind farms are not staffed 24/7.
The zoning hearing board is considering the project because the township zoning hearing board rejected an application filed by Broad Mountain Power LLC last month. The officer testified Wednesday night that he rejected the proposal because he didn’t have enough time to review the hundreds of pages in the application.
It is anticipated that the zoning hearing will take several sessions to complete.
Before the hearing, township secretary Stephanie Stolpe notified by mail every single resident of the township.
The dozens of residents who attended the hearing listened quietly, however they took issue when Stahl stated that the project would increase property values.
Gregory Mousseau, the zoning hearing board’s attorney, thanked the residents for remaining civil during the hearing and encouraged them to allow the developers to present their testimony before drawing any conclusions. The next session for the hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 30 in the middle school cafeteria, 602 Sixth St., Weatherly.
“Please, allow the attorneys to do their jobs. We’re creating a record. The zoning hearing board will make its decision once the applicant says we’ve presented all we can. We’re going to see who has carried their burden of proof,” Mousseau said.