Thursday, May 12, 2016

Wind energy project faces headwinds in the Poconos

PENN FOREST TOWNSHIP, PA — Wind turbines would soar hundreds of feet above a breezy, forested Pocono Mountain ridge in Penn Forest Township as part of a Bethlehem Authority watershed plan that promises $100,000 each year plus the satisfaction of producing green energy.

Nicole Radzievich reports for The Morning Call:
But for residents mobilizing against the project, the turbines represent a noisy, backyard blight that would fragment an ecosystem the authority has spent decades protecting. Dozens of turbines, and roads to reach them, are proposed amid mature hardwoods that attract bald eagles, and next to a development where the homeowners association requires a permit to remove trees more than 4 inches thick.
Planting turbines, residents fret, would chase away raptors, black bears and other frequent guests of the neighborhood. Some people fear birds would be chopped down by turbine blades located not far from a migratory raptor route.
"That's unacceptable. The Bethlehem Authority is going to profit from this. No one up here is," said Fran Scheetz, who sold her Emmaus home and moved to Penn Forest Township in Carbon County little more than a year ago for the wooded beauty. "It's going to destroy natural habitat and be disruptive for so many below in the development."

The public showdown is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Thursday at Penn Forest Fire Company No. 1, where the township Zoning Hearing Board will decide whether the project meets the legal criteria for a special exception.
The project calls for 40 turbines across as much as 292 acres north and south of Hatchery Road. Thirty-seven turbines would be on property of the Bethlehem Authority, the financial arm of city water operations. Three other alternate turbines are proposed on the nearby property of the Lehighton Water Authority.
A subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, an Oregon company that bills itself as the second-largest wind energy provider, doesn't have an agreement with Lehighton yet.
The Bethlehem agency signed a lease agreement three years ago, allowing Iberdrola to test the wind and ultimately construct the project. The lease calls for Iberdrola to pay the authority 3 percent of gross revenue or $100,000 per year, whichever is greater.

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