Wind project alarms group

Save Our Allegheny Ridges opposes latest attempt on Shaffer Mountain

A group that opposes mountaintop wind farms has raised alarms on a new project near the Bedford-Somerset county line, although details on the project remain scarce.

Save Our Allegheny Ridges, a group that opposes energy development on forested mountaintops, said in a news release that Chicago-based Invenergy plans to install a series of wind turbines atop Shaffer Mountain in Somerset County.

While there are indications Invenergy is moving to develop the area — part of a high ridge that divides river flows east and west — it’s not clear how far any project has progressed.

Somerset County planner Bill Lehman said Invenergy requested approval about three weeks ago to build three weather towers in the area, but municipal representatives said they haven’t received permit requests to build turbines.

A database operated by PJM Interconnection, the authority that covers the region’s electrical grid, indicates a 138-megawatt wind project could be in the early planning stage nearby.

Invenergy representatives didn’t return a message seeking comment Wednesday.

Save Our Allegheny Ridges leaders sharply protested any plan to build turbines on the mountain, arguing that the spinning blades could kill golden eagles or protected Indiana bats. The area is home to the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, a spot known for its high concentration of golden eagles, Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society President Brian M. Wargo said in a written statement.

“The Allegheny Front Hawk Watch is the premiere golden eagle site for the East Coast, holding the record for total golden eagles counted in a year, as well as the highest single day count,” he said. “It is ludicrous to place these wind turbines in the direct path of the highest concentration of these magnificent birds.”

The ridge group said turbines and connected industrial activity would damage Shaffer Mountain’s forests and water supplies as well.

Several wind farms already stretch along the Allegheny Ridge, with high concentrations visible west of Altoona. Previous efforts on Shaffer Mountain were stymied in 2012.

From 2006, Spanish energy company Gamesa­ planned to build a 30-turbine farm on the mountain, but the plan was canceled in 2012. The project was under federal review at the time after opponents raised concerns about birds and bats.

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.