The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

December 9, 2012

Views vary on environmental effects

JOHNSTOWN — Morning after morning, for eight or nine months out of the year, workers walk for miles across local wind farms, looking for dead bats and birds.

Their efforts are part of an overall plan to understand the environmental impact of windmills on nature.

Operators of Pennsylvania’s wind farms voluntarily collect the data and submit it to the state game commission for review. In a March 2011 report, the commission determined an average of 24.6 bats and 3.9 birds were found dead next to every turbine per year between 2007 and 2009.

The information gathered helps the state and wind farm owners better understand the animals’ migratory patterns.

“They hope to use this information for the future when they hope to site new wind farms. … Quite a bit of it is prospective,” said Ed Shoener, owner of Shoener Environmental, which conducts bat and bird searches on local land.

Along with tracking migrations, the wind companies, government agencies and independent organizations analyze the environmental impact on water and land.

PennEnvironment, a pro-wind organization, recently released a report, claiming the commonwealth’s windmills fight global warming by displacing as much pollution as produced annually by 218,000 cars. “It’s no surprise that wind power is good for our environment; we’ve known that for years,” said PennEnvironment clean water advocate Erika Staaf. “But our report, for the first time, quantifies the full environmental impact and other environmental and health benefits that Pennsylvanians get from wind power.”

Many proponents of wind power consider it a valuable asset in developing a diversified statewide energy portfolio that includes coal, solar, Marcellus Shale natural gas, hydroelectric, oil and nuclear.

“We’re calling ourselves the energy county,” said Cambria County Commissioner Mark Wissinger. “We’re pretty much blessed with the coal and we’ve got the Marcellus coming our way. We’ve got natural gas. We’re even looking into some hydroelectric. That we have a position for energy here with wind is a big part of our formula.”

A lot of opponents feel the wind industry does not help reduce pollution enough to justify damage it does to nature, such as killing bats and birds and removing oxygen-producing trees from the land.

In the Appalachian Mountains region, including Pennsylvania, the density of potential wind power capacity is generally less than 100 kilowatt-hours per square kilometer, according to a 2007 report issued by the National Research Council titled “Environmental Effects of Wind Energy Projects.”

“The wind potential along the Appalachian ridges is relatively weak compared to other regions of the U.S., like the Great Plains from Texas up to the Dakotas. ... The forested Appalachian ridges are what remain of the wilderness in the area. Basically, we’re doing damage to that for very little in return,” said Rick Webb, a senior scientist with the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia and operator of the website vawind.com.

Somerset County has been dealing with the environmental impact of turbines since its first wind farm opened in 2000.

“I think that once the windmills are installed and in place (the issues are) negligible,” said Somerset County Commissioner Joe Betta. “That might not be a popular view. I walk near them. You hear a little bit of noise, but not much.”

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • new councilman Judge fills City Council vacancy

    A lifelong Johnstown resident who has never sought election to public office was named Thursday to fill the vacancy on City Council.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cawley Lt. Gov. Cawley pushes jobs plan during Johnstown visit

    Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley got to see firsthand many of the training tools used by Hiram G. Andrews Center students on Thursday and took some time to promote a program called Jobs for All, part of Gov. Tom Corbett’s JOBS1st PA agenda.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • home VIDEO | Volunteers ‘blitz build’ replacement home for Upper Yoder man

    One week ago, Joey Varmecky had almost nothing.
    In October, a flue fire claimed his Swank Street home. That night, Varmecky, a deaf and partially blind man who doesn’t speak, showed up on the doorstep of his friend’s home. His feet were covered only by a pair of stockings.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Toomey & Shuster Bill would help identify unclaimed remains of veterans

    The cremated remains of an estimated 47,000 veterans are stored throughout the United States, sometimes in nothing more than nondescript metal canisters on shelves.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • million Lucky Seward man finds ticket to riches

    People often play the lottery and dream about the things they would do if they won the big one.
    That dream came true for Karl Kadi of Seward, who won $1 million on a $20 Max-A-Million scratch-off lottery ticket.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Farrish, James State police make another drug bust on turnpike

    A Pittsburgh man was jailed Thursday after state police said they found about $120,000 in suspected heroin during a traffic stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Stonycreek Township, Somerset County.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sisco, Ryan James & John Patrick Two brothers charged in beating at bar

    Two Johnstown brothers were jailed Wednesday after police said they beat a man so badly he suffered a concussion and may end up blind in one eye.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • path of flood Path of Flood entries due

    Anyone interested in participating in Johnstown Area Heritage Association’s  Path of the Flood Historic Half Marathon and 5K race will need to get in gear before the April 30 registration deadline.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drilling fees should fund education, Democrats say

    Democrats running for governor seem to be competing to convince voters they will dip deepest into the pockets of gas drillers to replace $1 billion that Gov. Tom Corbett has cut from education spending.

    April 17, 2014

  • Local briefs 4/18/2014

    April 17, 2014

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads