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Fla. firm is buying two wind farms here

Saturday, April 26, 2003

By Tom Gibb, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A company that last year bought the Somerset County area's first power-producing windmill complex is now buying the other two.

But Florida-based buyer FPL Energy LLC -- which turns wind into more electricity than any other company in the country -- won't say whether it's interested in any of another four wind-power projects being studied in Somerset County.

"There are a lot of projects we are looking at," FPL spokesman Steve Stengel said yesterday.

Last year, FPL bought Somerset County's first windmill complex, the Green Mountain Energy Center where, two years earlier, a set of towering turbines began turning out a maximum 10.4 megawatts of electricity.

By the end of June, Stengel said, FPL plans to buy both the 9-megawatt Somerset Wind Power development, visible from the Pennsylvania Turnpike just east of Somerset, and Mill Run Wind Power, a 15-megawatt array of windmills at the east edge of Fayette County.

Stengel refused to disclose the purchase price.

Both are owned by Atlantic Renewable Energy Corp. and partner Zilkha Renewable Energy LLC, which sell the output to Exelon Generation Co., which, in turn, markets the electricity across the region's power grid.

Power from the Green Mountain development -- called a wind farm -- is sold to Green Mountain Energy Co., which markets it to customers.

All three of those Somerset County-area wind farms are rather small -- especially given that FPL owns 66-megawatt Mountaineer Wind Energy Center, 42 miles southeast of Morgantown, W.Va., and will run a 63-megawatt array at Waymart, northeast of Wilkes-Barre, scheduled to go into operation late this year.

The projects are part of a burst of growth that, across the country, have FPL running wind turbines capable of generating 1,700 megawatts of power, enough to supply at least 1.3 million homes.

But that growth comes with goals to add 700 to 1,000 megawatts by year's end. So far, the company is acquiring or developing the wind farms to supply 600 of that. Where the rest might come from is open to guess.

Would-be developers continue to travel Somerset County's uplands, looking for spots for wind farms. Among the tracts is a stretch of ridge northeast of Somerset that a county Planning Commission board this week deemed too close to the county airport to be safe.

"Somerset County has a lot of open farmland," Exelon power trader Michael Freeman said yesterday. "How many projects can go there, I don't know."

Tom Gibb can be reached at tgibb@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1601.

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