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Wind farm hearing shortened due to heat

Published July 18. 2019 01:09PM

Broad Mountain Power Inc. brought its next expert witness from Boulder, Colorado, to speak to the Packer Township Zoning Board on the design of wind farms and current industry standards. Roark Lanning of WSP USA has designed and built wind farms.

As the meeting began in a hot Weatherly Middle School Cafeteria, Lanning’s introduction as an expert was challenged by attorney Bruce Anders, who represents a group of opponents to Broad Mountain’s wind farm proposal. His objection was that Lanning is not certified as an engineer in Pennsylvania — and had not been involved in a project in this state.

Robert Yurchak, Packer Township’s attorney, felt Anders’ challenge had merit.

Greg Mousseau, attorney for the zoning board, as chairman of the meeting, chose to allow Lanning to speak, postponing the issue of his being an “expert” until later.

Lanning addressed a report he had submitted which goes over the Packer zoning ordinance’s requirements. He then explained that Broad Mountain’s proposal with its 16 656-foot turbines and five 452-foot turbines generated the 80 megawatts of power that is the maximum capacity of the power line that PPL will use to connect to the regional power grid.

With industry standards changing — and turbines getting taller, Lanning tried to explain how the project meets Packer’s ordinance language. This led to some back and forth between Broad Mountain’s attorneys and Anders about what is the “industry standard” and what would be “best practice.”

An explanation was attempted about the units Broad Mountain has chosen. Two available options were too small — would not generate the electricity needed, while one even bigger option would have been too tall to be acceptable by the ordinance.

Mousseau followed up with more questions about the industry standard. As an answer, Lanning went into the testing protocols for these units by the industry group IEC, with third party testing for the Siemens Gamesa units Broad Mountain has chosen: SG114 and SG145.

Other information shared included that the turbine bases are designed to prevent anyone from climbing them from the outside. The blades for the shorter tower swing past at their lowest point 78 feet off the ground, while for the bigger units it’s 185 feet.

A discussion of the braking system went over the redundant systems on each tower. A hydraulic brake can be triggered by any of the three blades, and, when the blades slow sufficiently, a mechanical brake engages.

At this point, about two hours in, the zoning board members indicated that the room had become too uncomfortable for the meeting to continue, even as Lanning had not been cross-examined yet by Anders, or by Yurchak, who indicated he too had questions.

The suggestion to shorten this hearing surprised Broad Mountain’s team, who repeated that Lanning had come from Colorado. After discussion among them, they made it clear that another hearing will be needed to allow Lanning to return to finish up. This was approved, but no date was set. The meeting was then adjourned.

The next hearing is Monday, featuring a medical expert.

Also, if the weather is favorable this Saturday, four balloons will fly over the site about dawn, with the results to be displayed and explained at a hearing Aug. 14 if the test goes to plan.

Attendance was down a little, to about 75, still about 80% from Packer and Weatherly, 10% Nesquehoning, and the rest split between other Carbon County and out-of-towners.

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