TAHS students chime in on Gamesa’s proposed Ice Mountain wind farm

Results of student wind farm survey
TAHS tenth grade U.S. Civics students participated in an informal survey to provide a “yes” or “no” answer to Gamesa’s proposed Ice Mountain wind farm. A total of 132 students took the survey, which was similar to the survey registered borough voters took at the April 22 PA primary. Here are the results.
• 92 students were in favor of the wind farm project
• 33 students were opposed to the project
• 7 students were undecided or undeclared

Tyrone Area High School tenth grade U.S. Civics students recently participated in an extensive project involving Gamesa Energy USA’s proposed 10 to 15 turbine wind farm on Tyrone Borough watershed property atop Ice Mountain.
The proposal is part of the Sandy Ridge Wind Farm project. Tyrone’s part of the project is estimated to pay the borough $3 to $5 million over the 30-year life-span of the wind farm.
TAHS Civics teacher Todd Cammarata presented his students a community issues project entitled “The Sandy Ridge Wind Farm Proposal – Energy Independence or Environmental Hazard.” The goal of the project was for the students to assume the role of advisor to borough council, and determine what course of action council should take in its voting of the wind farm proposal.
Students had the opportunity to research a plethora of material provided by The Daily Herald, Altoona Mirror, Gamesa, Save Ice Mountain group, Juniata Valley Audubon Society (JVAS), and results from the community survey taken during the Pennsylvania primary April 22.
Along with the provided information, students also heard the pros of wind energy and development from Gamesa Project Developer Josh Framel. A presentation was also given by Dr. Stan Kotala, conservation chairperson for JVAS and representative for Save Ice Mountain, on the cons of the proposed wind farm on Ice Mountain.
Cammarata said that the project was more than simply listening to the presentations. The students were also required to develop questions for both Framel and Kotala, through researching facts and opinions that both supported and opposed the wind farm. As a final project, the students weighed both sides and presented their opinion on the issue in the form of a paper, poster, brochure, or PowerPoint presentation.
“Student interest in this project was very high,” noted Cammarata. “One of my principle goals in teaching Civics is to make the subject relevant to their lives, so when a controversy like this boils up in the community, it presents a great teachable moment.”
Cammarata’s 132 tenth grade Civics students took part in the project, but other students at Tyrone in the Science and Social Studies departments, and several twelfth and eighth grade classes, were invited to sit in on the guest speakers’ presentations.
The project was very successful in Cammarata’s eyes, because it gave his students an understanding of the complexity of the wind farm proposal and that real-life decisions are almost never black and white. He said that the students gained a much better understanding of the issue, noting that “most of the students felt that both speakers made excellent points.”
“I was very impressed by the quality of the questions by the students,” added Cammarata. “They were not afraid to challenge both presenters with an opposing point of view.”
He added, “The most popular argument that I heard for the proposal was its potential to provide clean energy for their future. The majority of the students who were against it were opposed to the particular site selection and wished it could go somewhere other than Ice Mountain.”
Cammarata said that the $3 to $5 million that would be generated into the borough due to the wind farm was a consideration of many students, but it was not as much of an issue as he expected. He said more of the students were focused on the environmental costs and benefits than the dollars and cents issues.
Tenth grade student Logan Harper said he already knew some things about the wind farm because he lives near the proposed wind farm construction site. He enjoyed the project and stated that both presenters were very informative – but as for a decision, he said the fence is where he’s sitting right now.
“There’s reasons why I would like them, and there’s a few that I don’t,” said Harper. “I’m more for it. It’s good for the environment.”
Student Kaitlin Spangler said she would probably vote “no” on the wind farm proposal.
“I learned a lot about how they (wind turbines) function and how much energy they produce,” said Spangler. “With them only really working at full capacity 30 percent of the time, I don’t really think it’s going to benefit us too much.”
Veronica Detwiler, a tenth grade student, said she learned that the wind at the Ice Mountain location is only a Class II, which she thinks “isn’t that great.” Although she is in the middle as for what she would vote on the proposal, the killing of bats and environmental effects are her major concerns.
Student Christina Brisbin thought that Framel was “very convincing” when she listened to his presentation on the pros of wind energy, which she said has her leaning more towards the proposed wind farm. She noted that the younger generation might look at wind energy more differently than others.
“I don’t want to say we look at it one way, but there’s a lot more arguments with the adults,” said Brisbin. “It seems like from what I’ve heard, the younger generation seems more one-sided.”
She added, “With these windmills, I’d say we’re a bit more educated than most of the town, but that’s only because we had the opportunity to hear these people speak.”
Some of the students expressed that they felt there should be more money involved for Tyrone Borough in the proposal, and if there was, it would influence their decision even more.
Cammarata agreed with Brisbin that this generation might look at clean energy more differently.
“I do think that this generation is generally more concerned and more aware about the environment than older generations,” stated Cammarata. “Most are eager to see our country move away from fossil fuels.”
Cammarata was grateful for all the help he received for making this project possible, adding that Tyrone Borough Councilperson Pat Stoner helped him get in touch with the right people to enhance the project.
“Without the willingness of Josh Framel from Gamesa and Stan Kotala from Save Ice Mountain to spend the day with my students, this opportunity for them to study this important community issue would not have been possible,” added Cammarata.