Last week, I had the exciting opportunity to join dozens of AWEA staff members and interns to see a wind farm "up close and personal." As you’ll see from the pictures below, the view was breathtaking and the wind turbines fit in perfectly with the nature surrounding it.
The wind farm was E.ON’s Stony Creek wind farm in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. For some of us, including myself, it was our first time seeing a turbine up close. I was awed by how these elegantly designed structures towered over us and seemed to disappear into the clouds at a distance. More than anything I was surprised at how quietly they operated—making no more sound than a refrigerator even when standing right next to them. We were lucky enough to take a look inside of one and learn about the daily maintenance routine needed to keep the facility running smoothly. According to one of the site technicians, it takes a full nine minutes to climb to the top of a turbine.
Members of AWEA staff visiting E.ON's Stony Creek wind farm
Constructed over a reclaimed surface mine, Stony Creek boasts 35 General Electric turbines powered at 1.5 megawatts (MW) each, with a total installed capacity of 52.5 MW that provide enough electricity for approximately 16,000 homes in Western Pennsylvania. The project was completed in fall of 2009 by owner and operator, E.ON, the world’s largest investor-owned energy service provider.
E.ON's Stony Creek wind farm
Technician Bradley Jones and fellow employees articulated both the successes and challenges of running a wind farm. They emphasized how collaborating with the local community and fostering relationships with surrounding landowners is imperative for the wind industry to continue developing and thriving in the United States.
For example, Stony Creek has employed local workers, who can help reassure residents and address rumors they might hear about the facility. It has worked with landowners to ensure their property is used in ways acceptable to them. And it has become involved with initiatives to protect nearby bat populations that have been affected by cave explorers.
Overall, seeing how well the wind farm integrated with local life was fascinating and the visit was an experience that I won’t soon forget. I have an even greater respect for our technicians in the field and the hard work they put in every day, serving their communities and making clean energy a reality.