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Dialogue continues regarding solar power farms

By Carol Sones Shelter - | Apr 28, 2021

CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary Solar panels on the grounds of the East Lycoming School District located along the north side of Elm Drive, is but a small example of what is proposed in the valley south of the Muncy Hills as officials are in the midst of taking input from residents in the townships of Anthony and Derry in Montour County, and Madison in Columbia County. All three of these places border eastern and southeastern Lycoming County.

ANTHONY TOWNSHIP-A written statement  by Anthony Township Supervisors referenced a Second Class Township Code stating responsibility for the health, safety and welfare of its residents. They take this to mean to refrain from making any decisions that will adversely affect residents in a negative manner.

Zoning laws allowing solar farms in this and the adjoining townships of Derry and Madison are not up to township officers but at county levels. The supervisors are however, concerned that should a change be made, many residents will be affected in a negative manner in at least the health and welfare areas.

Some county officials and others say, “There is no sense fighting, law require allowance, yet no one seems to know how much solar energy needs to be installed or how the amount was determined.”

Pennsylvania Act 35 signed in 2007 by then Gov. Rendell, require solar panels be installed by companies that produce and sell electricity. The Act states generating companies are required by law to have a .5 percent power sold in solar. It is not known how much power has been generated by Talen in Pennsylvania. According to Talen, they generate about 14,000 MW from 21 plants in seven states. Nowhere in the Act can it be seen tiny Montour County (smallest in PA) be home of this .5 percent in solar panels.

The power plant, in Montour County near Washingtonville since the mid 1970s, generates very little power and has been said they can’t compete with gas generators.

During the last three public meetings representatives of Talen Energy and Pattern Energy took questions. All comments from local residents had been negative towards this amendment or change to the current Zoning Ordinance and the Montour Solar project. Though many questions went unanswered, the two companies later responded by letter to concerns. Some were as follows:

WELL CONTAMINATION – Only the top 10 feet of soil is affected with no result in extreme vibrations in the soil. Neither likely or expected are damages to foundations, water well, underground piping or other improvements. PA DPE requirements are meant.

STORM WATER RUNOFF – Solar panels do not produce any harmful byproducts or runoff. They contain no discharge of chemicals or harmful materials into soil, air or water.

AESTHETICS – Solar panels are designed at a height that will no produce glare. Setback requirements by local ordinances will be followed, currently 25-50 feet from property boundary to fence line.

WILDLIFE AFFECTS – Previously disturbed agricultural fields are generally considered poor quality habitat for most wildlife species.

NOISE – generated by inverters and tracking motors are not audible above background noise at the facility’s fence line. During peak production the range is typically a range of 40 decibels at a 100 foot distance.

Dialogue with residents, township and county officials will continue. For more information, log on to www.montoursolar.com.

(Next week, a local contractor experienced with integrating solar into home building, shares his comments.)