Categories
News Tyrone Daily Herald Archives

Borough Council VP Bill Latchford sits down for a Q & A about Gamesa’s proposed wind farm on Ice Mountain

(Editor’s note: The following is one of a two part Q&A series with Councilperson Latchford. The second part will appear in Friday’s edition of The Daily Herald.)
Bill Latchford serves on Tyrone Borough Council as vice-president, and he is coming up on his 14th year as a council member. He has been researching Gamesa’s proposed 10 to 15 wind mills on the borough’s watershed property since the proposal was announced over a year ago, and last evening he sat down with The Daily Herald to answer some questions about his experience thus far in the decision making process. Latchford has traveled to the Allegheny Ridge wind farm on two occasions, and has seen the project from its beginning construction phase to end of construction phase, and has called people from Ohio to Philadelphia in attempt to learn as much as possible about wind energy development.
What is your main concern right now with a wind farm on Ice Mountain?
My main concern would be the noise levels of the wind mills, based on the noise problem at the Allegheny Ridge project right now. Gamesa doesn’t say there’s not a problem, they admit there is a problem and they’re working on it, but until they get that problem fixed, I’m pretty much a “no” until I hear that. If Gamesa fixes that problem, and the opponents up there that told me they don’t like the noise are happy, and the noise is not there anymore, I can’t think of anything standing in my way of a wind farm, in just my vote, coming here.
What are the positives of having wind farm development?
Out of the four alternative energies, geo-thermal, solar, wind and nuclear, wind is the most efficient besides nuclear, but no one wants a nuclear plant here. When the proposal first came to us, I was like “yes,” here’s an alternative, we need to start doing something no matter how small, something helps. I was informed by tyronepa.com boards that’s not the way to think, but the people on the boards have a true passion towards this mountain and the local residents, but in regards to Dr. Kotala and others, their standing is more towards the eco-system I think, and I have no problem with that, it’s just that I don’t have the same values he or some other people have. A good activist knows the pros and cons, and can state them without having the passion pop into the situation. It becomes emotional. I understand the eco side of it now, and how it can be bad or could be bad for the eco-system. Do I totally agree with it all? No I don’t. I still believe every little bit helps. If we don’t do something now, our kids are going to have to, or our grandkids. Who knows how long coal and oil are going to last. These are things that get eaten up and then are gone, there’s no replacing them, but things like wind are always moving around.
Why do you think Gamesa wants to put this wind farm here on Ice Mountain?
From what I learned from my research, I believe there is a real incentive, money wise, for alternatives to come here. Now the only alternative that can survive here is wind. Wind is the one that does the least amount of harm to the environment/eco-system. Solar takes up way too much space and it is ugly to get rid of. Apparently there are three or four pretty nasty chemicals in the solar panels that make them very toxic. Geo-thermal is not efficient enough, you have to dig down too far to get it around here, so wind is the only alternative that can be really pushed to the people. It does have a great incentive from the state. Out of a 50 million dollar plant being built, I don’t know how much is coming out of the owner’s of the plant’s pockets, but the incentives are good.
What’s your thoughts on potential erosion on the watershed property due to a wind farm?
In my opinion, I look at the Allegheny Ridge project. When we were going through there, Gamesa has these six to eight inch rubber barriers up on the road that are staggered, and are suppose to catch the water as it comes down the road. When you remove all the debris from the road, like the grass and things like that which can slow water down, now it can just flow freely down the roads. What Gamesa has are these things that collect the water, slow it down and move it into the drainage ditches – to me, that is a very efficient way of erosion control. Am I an erosion specialist or geologist? Absolutely not. But to me, I think Gamesa’s doing a lot, and the install looked very nice. Whenever I go walking around on these old logging roads, there was no erosion controls or anything like that, at least Gamesa keeps this in mind and there are semi-stringent rules they have to go by. From what I know, I feel they do a very good job of watching out for the land they’re beating up on.
Do you feel there is a concern for the borough’s water supply with construction of a wind farm?
One council member was worried about the vibrations of these wind mills. These things sit on a 50 foot by 10 foot deep base, and I think that would absorb any type of vibration. We say in the lease that Gamesa is not allowed to dynamite up there or anything like that, so everything has to be dug. This is the watershed, they drill these bore holes to verify what they’re going to be digging into, and from what I understand they’re at least 30 feet deep. They’re only going 10 feet for the actual foundation for the wind mills, so they’re going to know if they’ll run into acid rock – they’re going to know if they’re dealing with ground that’s unstable. My guess is they’re doing their due diligence on this, and they know what they’re doing. There’s no doubt Gamesa’s making money off these, and I know they’re profitable over the amount of initial money they put into them.
How much of a role does money play in your vote?
If there was a way to really show the people that they were going to get something out of this, I think the fears that are being brought up by the opposition could be settled down a little bit. People are thinking this is absolutely no good, period. But there is, as much as I hate to admit it, there is a monetary value to it. Now is $60-90,000 a year worth it? I’m not absolutely sure. Gamesa does provide rate increases to take care of any cost of living issues. It is three percent of the gross annual revenue if it’s bigger than the $6,000 per wind mill. If it’s a really windy season, the borough would stand to make more than that.
How do you think the money should be used if the wind farm is installed?
I think if there was a way where we could save people money on their monthly bills with this, I think that’s the route we should go. Should the money be used for water line improvements and things like that? Most certainly. The whole town benefits from that. We have some unfunded mandates coming up on our sewer plant and we weren’t aware that we were allowed to use this money for anything other than water, apparently we can, so that’s a big plus for the borough. If we’re looking at everyone’s sewer rates going up to take care of the Chesapeake Bay Tributary issue, say everyone’s rate goes up $30, and we can take that $60-90,000 or more and put some of it towards people’s bills – we will. Instead of the full $30, maybe it’ll only be $20 more. Every little bit helps. We couldn’t give people electricity from the wind farm, that’s regulated at state and federal levels. The wind farm electricity goes into a grid and that electricity is already pre-bought.