Blue Mountain President Barbara Green hopes to use wind turbines to reduce her area's electric bill and carbon footprint. Power, primarily for snowmaking during the winter season, is the resort's second-largest expense after payroll, she said.
At this point, it's uncertain whether the plan will weather a whirlwind of opposition from some groups who fear its impact on wildlife and landscape, or even whether it makes economic sense.
"No matter what you change, there's always somebody out there who will have some opposition to it. We're working through the objections, to see if it's feasible, and we certainly don't want to hurt the environment," Green said.
Green has asked the Lower Towamensing Planning Commission for permission to begin a study to gauge whether winds at the resort are strong enough to produce a reliable power.
"My background is in the electric utility industry. I'm very plugged in to rate hikes and deregulation and what they would do," she said.
Predictions for Pennsylvania's electric rates, when deregulation ends in December 2009, are for an increase of 30 percent to 40 percent, she said.
"We'd be losing money. That got me looking at alternatives. Everybody I've talked to says solar is probably not viable because we face north. I'm looking at various wind options; I'm hoping to get an anemometer up in a month so we can study it.
"That is the best alternative we have out there at the moment," Green said.
Whether the project flies at Blue Mountain, the proposal is in line with growing national interest in alternative sources of power.
As Americans grapple with increasing energy costs and mounting evidence of climate change driven by burning of fossil fuels, and young Americans are engaged in combat overseas, wind power has become an increasingly attractive route to providing power.
Jiminy Peak in the Berkshires of Massachusetts installed a wind turbine a year ago that produces more than half the area's electricity. The town of Princeton, perched on the side of Wachusett Mountain in Central Massachusetts, is in the process of replacing an old eight-tower wind farm with two newer, larger, and more efficient wind turbines projected to produce 40 percent of the town's power. Cape Wind is working on a project to put wind turbines in Nantucket Sound south of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
All three projects stirred some concerns from environmental groups over possible impacts on wildlife, and definite impacts on landscape views.
The Blue Mountain proposal also is raising concerns over impacts on a major East Coast hawk migration route along the Kittatinny Ridge. Each fall, birds of prey leave their nesting territories in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada and fly south for the winter, in one of the great wildlife spectacles of North America.
Stay tuned, and feel free to share your thoughts on wind power in a comment below.