Transformed Mine Site to House Wind Farm

Study examines the effect of stopping turbines during low-wind conditions to protect bats.

by News Staff / October 21, 2008

Pennsylvania's Governor Edward G. Rendell helped to dedicate Pennsylvania's newest wind farm on October 16th, 2008. The wind farm has transformed a former surface coal mine in Somerset County into a source of clean, renewable energy that will protect the environment and benefit Pennsylvania's consumers and economy.

"We are changing the way electricity is produced and consumed in Pennsylvania by developing renewable and alternative energy sources and implementing advanced energy efficiency and conservation technologies," Rendell said as he visited the Casselman Wind Power Project, developed by Iberdrola Renewables. "The demand for wind power is growing across Pennsylvania and the nation because it's an alternative source of energy from a domestic resource that can be produced at a stable, competitive price."

The 23 wind turbines at the Casselman Wind Power Project will produce enough clean energy to meet the equivalent needs of more than 10,000 homes annually, although the power will be sold to commercial and industrial consumers through FirstEnergy Solutions.

The utility signed a 23-year agreement to purchase the power generated by the wind farm. Such power purchase agreements are tools to reduce project-financing costs and ultimately keep costs lower for power consumers.

About one-third of the wind farm is located on a reclaimed surface coal mine. The Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority invested $500,000 in 2006 to rehabilitate the former mine site, which helped to offset the increased costs and foregone revenues associated with using this environmentally scarred land. The nature of soils at previously mined areas require higher than normal construction costs and this former mine site is at a lower elevation, making the turbines less productive.

Iberdrola has taken additional steps to protect the environment with help from Department of Environmental Protection for a study of bat mortality that was conducted at the site by the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative. The study, partially funded by DEP, tested the effect of stopping wind turbines during low-wind conditions, when bats are most active.

The study, the first of its kind in the U.S., examines the value of lost electricity sales due to the temporary shutdowns. The final report is anticipated for public distribution by April 1.

"By producing energy from the wind responsibly, rather than burning fossil fuels, the Casselman Wind Farm annually will also avoid emissions of almost 57,000 tons of carbon dioxide and almost one million pounds of sulfur dioxide into the air," Rendell said. "That is equivalent to removing more than 10,750 cars from the road annually, or to the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by more than 46,000 acres of trees in a year."