Apr. 19, 2017

By Rep. Curt Sonney (R-Erie)
Energy consumption continues to grow across the United States, including here in Pennsylvania. Although we harvest coal and natural gas to help support our appetite for electricity, the fastest-growing energy source is wind.

Wind energy consists of connecting turbines to the electric grid to produce power. It is a great alternative to fossil fuels because it is clean, renewable, plentiful and produces no greenhouse gas emissions.

In an effort to expand the potential use of wind energy in the Commonwealth, I have authored two bills currently before the General Assembly.

House Bill 187 would allow a preserved farmland owner with 50-plus acres the ability to grant a right-of-way to install a wind power generation system.

Under the current easement program, these landowners, who are enrolled in a land preservation program, may grant the use of right-of-ways for the installation of, transportation of, or use of water, sewage, electric, telephone, coal or non-coal minerals by underground mining methods, gas, oil and/or oil products lines. My legislation would simply add wind power generation to that list, within certain parameters to protect the integrity of the preserved farmland.

The installation of wind farms can provide potential rental income for farmers, and those who currently operate on preserved farmland should not be prevented from taking advantage of such an opportunity.

I have also authored House Bill 589, which would permit the Pennsylvania Department of General Services to lease submerged lands in excess of 25 acres within Lake Erie for the assessment, development, construction and operation of utility-scale offshore wind, solar or kinetic energy generation facilities.

Offshore wind is known to be steadier and stronger than on land, so there is great potential for constructing these facilities.

The legislation would be known as the Lake Erie Wind Energy Development Act and would establish a competitive process and award a permit lease of an initial seven-year term with options to renew the lease for additional 35-year terms. It also would allow for termination of the lease in the event the lessee does not develop the parcel within the initial seven-year term.

Under my legislation, a 2 percent royalty would be established on the gross revenues of the system, to be divided as follows:

• 20 percent to Erie County.
• 20 percent to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for activities directly related to Lake Erie.
• 40 percent to the Department of Environmental Protection for dam removal, restoration and repair projects.
• 20 percent to the County Conservation District Fund for distribution to county conservation districts.

Pennsylvania has always been a leader in energy production and these two bills would help to continue that tradition by expanding our ability to take advantage of the development and subsequent benefits of wind energy.

Representative Curt Sonney
4th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Tricia Lehman