Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA--Gamesa is planning region?s largest wind farm

Gamesa is planning region?s largest wind farm

Wind-turbine builder Gamesa Inc. ? which is constructing a factory outside Ebensburg ? is preparing a state permit seeking to build what would be the area?s largest windmill farm, The Tribune-Democrat has learned.

Spain-based Gamesa?s blueprint along the Blair-Cambria county line includes about 60 wind turbines ? three times the region?s largest, a string of 20 in Meyersdale.

The company is remaining close-mouthed about specifics of the turbines expected to stretch from Portage to the Cresson area. Brian Lammers, Gamesa?s director of development, said only that the project is moving forward.

?Everything looks positive for the project to be built in 2006,? he said.

Exact locations for the siting of the windmills are still unknown.

Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm LLC would be the name, according to information provided to the Portage Township supervisors by a consultant working for wind-energy developer Gamesa.

Shoener Environmental Consulting Services of Moscow, Pa., shows the turbines could be located near Blue Knob, including the Cambria County townships of Cresson, Portage and Washington. In Blair, Juniata and Greenfield townships could be involved.

Gamesa anticipates that a total of 200-plus acres will be affected by construction.

Meanwhile, Gamesa has begun hiring employees for Fiberblade, the company?s first American manufacturing facility, a blade plant being built in Cambria Township.

Portage-area officials were told in April that Gamesa was considering wind power on land belonging to Portage Area Municipal Water Authority, Martindale Lumber Co. and Helsel Lumber Co.

Interest in developing wind energy is increasing in the region as the state and federal governments push for alternative energy sources. The Allegheny Ridge has an elevation higher than 2,600 feet and provides miles of relatively undeveloped land through eastern Cambria County.

The size of the proposed farm is a surprise to Portage Township resident Bruce Brunett, who led a fight in the spring for local officials to develop regulations for the operation.

?This 60 is just flooring me,? Brunett said. ?Each windmill has a 3-acre footprint. That?s stripped ground: No trees, no nothing.?

Details are being ironed out for ordinances by the host municipalities to regulate siting and operation of the turbines. Of particular concern is how far from adjoining property lines the giant blades may be placed and the amount of acceptable noise.

A day of negotiations last week included representatives of Washington, Greenfield and Juniata townships at the Ebensburg office of C.J. Webb, solicitor for Portage Township. Lammers also attended for Gamesa.

?We believe we have reached a tentative agreement on all of the outstanding issues,? Webb said of a draft ordinance that addresses property line setbacks and noise.

The draft is being circulated among the municipalities and could be adopted in Portage Township as early as the November meeting, Webb said.

?The agreement is identical for all four municipalities,? he said.

While Cresson Township is included in the consultant?s description, Webb said it is unclear how much area will be involved there.

Gamesa?s full application to the state Department of Environmental Protection has not been submitted to the Pittsburgh office, spokesman Betsy Mallison said Wednesday.

DEP and Cambria County Conservation District will be involved in the permit process as it relates to soil, erosion control and sedimentation during the construction phase, Mallison said.

Three windmill farms in Somerset County hold 34 turbines, said Brad Zearfoss, director of the Somerset County Planning Commission. Aside from Meyersdale, Garrett has eight turbines and Somerset Township has six.