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Local wind projects come to standstill

Proposed wind-driven turbine operations aren’t progressing.

Despite a recent report indicating Pennsylvania’s significant growth in wind energy, local projects that once seemed imminent are all either dead or at a standstill.

The state ranked second in growth with 29 percent, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s report on the market for the third quarter of 2009.

Pennsylvania has nearly 600 megawatts of wind capacity installed, capable of generating roughly enough to power 178,500 homes. Though it lags considerably behind more windblown states such as Texas, Iowa and California in total installed capacity, its percentage growth trailed Arizona only because the state installed its first large-scale project.

The United States’ total wind capacity is now more than 31,000 megawatts, enough to power nearly 9 million homes and reducing expected carbon emissions from the electricity industry by 2.5 percent, according to the report.

Local wind hasn’t added to that growth, though. Two Luzerne County projects have withered on the vine, one dying after a very public legal fight and the other quietly. A massive project expected to straddle several Wyoming County municipalities on South Mountain seems to have stopped with no explanation.

Energy Unlimited’s bid to build as many as 34 turbines on Penobscot Mountain near Crystal Lake hit roadblocks from Bear Creek Township in 2006 when supervisors denied a land-use plan the company had submitted. The battle went to court, but decisions were eventually handed down that require the company to reduce its plans to accommodate much stricter ordinances. Those plans haven’t been filed.

In 2006, Gamesa Energy USA and Community Energy, which runs the current wind park on Bald Mountain in Bear Creek Township, indicated plans for turbines on Nescopeck Mountain.

Neither of those has progressed much beyond initial interest.

BP’s South Mountain project gained a lot of attention in Noxen, Forkston and surrounding townships about a year ago. Since then, the company has paid permitting fees, began boring test holes and continued testing the wind.

However, “that’s as far as it got,” said Carl Shook, a Noxen Township supervisor. He said he hasn’t heard from BP’s representative in quite some time.

State legislators are considering adding incentives for installing wind and other alternative energies.

Rep. John Yudichak, D-Nanticoke, announced he is co-sponsoring H.B. 984 to allow construction of wind power generation systems on land enrolled in Clean and Green programs without the imposition of rollback taxes on the entire tract of land, and H.B. 786 to establish a state energy office within the state Department of Environmental Protection to promote energy development and conservation.

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