Speaker discusses wind turbines

BURNHAM – The Rotary Club of Lewistown heard a presentation about industrial wind turbines planned for Jacks and Stone mountains during a meeting on Tuesday.

Laura Jackson, President of Save Our Allegheny Ridges, gave a presentation entitled “The Pros and Cons of Industrial Wind Development on Jacks and Stone Mountain.” Jackson said since S.O.A.R. was formed in 2006, four communities have had wind development plans terminated through the act of getting the facts out there and getting the community involved.

“I did do some research on Rotary before coming here today to speak with you,” Jackson said. “The thing that stood out to me during my research was the four-way test of Rotary … and as I went through the presentation I tried to apply the test to the information that I present today.”

Jackson also said, as a retired science teacher, truth is important as is making sure everything is fair, allowing development to produce goodwill and friendships that are beneficial to all involved. She continued to say her opinion on wind energy has changed over the years, after she began doing research when turbines were going to be placed on Evitts Mountain in Bedford County.

“I am not going to tell you my opinion right away,” Jackson said. “I want you to form your own opinion on the facts presented here, but my opinion may be clear after what you see presented.”

The Bedford County plan was one of the four projects that have been terminated. However, there are a total of 24 industrial wind turbine plants in the state. Jackson was approached by the Lewistown Towpath Naturalist Society about a year ago to give a presentation, similar to this one.

The two companies that have proposed the turbines are Volkswind and E.ON. Volkswind currently has a test tower, which gathers wind speed and wind direction data, and has already had landowners sign leases for the right to build the turbines. Volkswind plans on building 20 turbines on the top of Jacks Mountain, each 400 feet tall generating 2 megawatts each. Jackson said this does not produce as much energy as other resources because Pennsylvania does not have adequate wind resources.

“This state does not have a strong wind resource,” Jackson said. “This means the wind does not blow enough to make a difference with a 2 megawatt wind turbine, which is why multiple are needed.”

She continued to say if you combine all of the turbines currently in service in the state, the turbines only produce about 25 percent of the energy. Jackson said the wind turbines do not reduce oil consumption, the turbines are only used for the production of electricity. She said the reason the companies want to build on Jacks Mountain is because the electric resource lines are already in place, unlike other states that have a higher wind resource, but do not have the resource lines.

“Having these resource lines makes us, Pennsylvania, more money,” Jackson said. “We get more money because other states or countries can by rights to the turbine, and use the resources generated.”

Jackson said subsides from the government are provided, but the problem arises when the subsides are no longer there and the plant closes.

“Typically when the subsides are gone, it falls on the local government to take care of the removal of the turbines,” Jackson said. “Some of the townships have programs in place to remove them, but each township needs its own plan.”

There are other risks involved with the proposal, Jackson said. Some of these risks involve health risks and damage from the turbines themselves. She said the turbine blades do fracture and fall off, the motor can leak oil and can catch on fire. Reports have also shown the turbines can slow the tourism in the area, because the mountain is a popular destination for hang gliders, sailplanes and paragliders, Jackson continued.

Jackson said if people in the areas where the wind turbines are being proposed were properly educated, then more turbines could be prevented in the future.