Wyoming County Wind Farm Project On Schedule
By Rick Hiduk
The Mehoopany Wind Farm in western Wyoming County is proceeding on schedule, according to BP Wind Energy executives, and should begin generating power by the end of 2012. Massive sections of the 90 wind turbine units that will be constructed in Noxen, Forkston, Mehoopany, and Eaton Townships have been arriving daily at the staging area just north of Noxen on Route 29.
“We’re operating exactly as per schedule,” said BP Wind Energy director of government and public affairs Amanda Abbott. “Through the rest of December, you will see more parts arriving at the lay down yard.” The delivery routes, which vary as per where the parts are produced, are commissioned by corporation’s Harrisburg office. Utility lines have had to be raised on occasion to allow access to some of the larger loads, but transportation of the pieces has not been particularly disruptive of traffic in any area.
In the meantime, Mehoopany Wind Farm site manager Tharon Anderson related that logging of parts of Windy Valley to the west has begun in earnest in advance of the construction of roads that will carry the 130-foot blades, generator parts, and tower pieces to their final destinations.
Weather-permitting, Abbott offered, the roads will be built over the next few months. “We won’t begin to erect the turbines until spring next year,” she stated. “The roads are a natural progression from the logging phase.”
Anderson estimated that approximately 50 men and women work at the lay down yard on a regular basis. That number can increase dramatically on days like Dec. 12 and 13, when there was an exceptionally large influx of parts. Anderson was expecting segments of the tower bases, perhaps the largest single pieces of all, to begin arriving on Dec. 13.
When completed, the wind turbines will have a hub height of 328 feet and a rotor diameter of 271 feet. Each will be able to generate 144 MW of electricity—enough energy to power approximately 40,000 homes annually—and will be channeled to the regional power grid via the Mehoopany substation situated near the Procter & Gamble plant in Washington Township in Wyoming County. Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, based in Glen Allen, VA, and Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative already have power purchase agreements with BP, and the corporation is actively marketing its future product to other customers in northeastern United States.
Unlike the natural gas drilling sites, BP employees do not live within the fenced-in area of the lay down yard, nor will they reside at the bases of the wind turbine towers as they are constructed. According to Anderson, many of the workers are local residents, and the remainder of the current work force is dispersed throughout the community.
Abbott explained that the number of employees will peak during the construction phase, which will run from the spring of 2012 through the end of next year. The towers will rise relatively quickly, she noted.
“Once you start building the wind farm, the units are completed and commissioned quite quickly,” said Abbott. “That’s standard for the wind industry. We will start to commission the wind turbines in the fall of 2012, one after another. The project will be in commercial operation by the end of next year.”
Once all of the towers have been commissioned, Abbott noted, only a skeleton crew of five to 10 fulltime employees will stay behind to monitor the sites.