Monday, September 16, 2013

The Power is Blowing in the Wind (Updated)

The wind turbines sought by Montgomery County Community College are said to be similar to those used at Lincoln Financial Field.

Portions of Montgomery County Community College's West Campus in Pottstown will soon be powered by the wind.

On Sept. 9, borough council voted unanimously to issue a letter of support for the college's request for a zoning variance to allow four small wind turbines at the 140 College Dr. building, also home of the Schuylkill River National Heritage Area, which occupies the front of the building.

Two days later, the zoning hearing board voted to grant the variance.

Steady Moono
Council was initially lukewarm to the idea, with Council Joseph Kirkland expressing concerns about the potential noise during the council work session Sept. 4.

However Councilman Dan Weand, who chairs the borough's planning commission, said the
turbines are not very loud nor very large.

Borough Manager Mark Flanders said they are very similar to the turbines on top of Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, home of the Eagles.

At the Sept. 9 meeting, Dr. Steady Moono, vice president of the west campus, and Michael Billetta, director of operations and capital projects, were there to answer council's questions.

Moono said the plan is part of the campus"sustainability initiative," something the entire college is focusing on.

Addressing Kirkland's concern, Moono said, "they are quieter than the air conditioning units we put in our windows."

Kirkland added that when he looked the equipment up, he found it to be 40-decibels. "That's the quivalent of a desk-top computer, so it's pretty quiet."

The electricity generated by the turbines

would be enough to run the lights in the parking lot.
The equipment, Moono said, is endorsed by the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, the National Audubon Society and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and pose little risk to birds or bats.

The electricity they generate, he said, will not be enough to run the building, but may well generate enough electricity to run the lights in the parking lot of the building at 140 College Dr., planned to be the campus environmental studies center.

"They compliment what we want our students to be studying at the environmental studies center," Moono said.

Billetta said even winds as low as 10 miles per hour are enough to generate usable electricity.

Council had three options: Write a letter opposing the request, write a letter supporting it or take no position.

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