After a few site visits and a “very informative” conference call, the Planning Board is hopeful it can have a usable wind turbine bylaw by this summer, according to Chairman Jamie Reinhardt.
“Everybody thinks these things happen overnight, and everybody thinks that just because we’ve been working on it for three years means we have all the answers, but it doesn’t,” Reinhardt said at the board’s meeting last week.
The board is trying to complete the bylaw before the Minuteman Wind company begins construction on a five-turbine, 12.5-megawatt wind facility in town.
The board is meeting with representatives from the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Town Hall to run the draft proposal by the commission.
Over the past two months, board members visited the Searsburg Wind Facility in Vermont and the Maple Ridge Wind Farm in Lewis County, N.Y. The Searsburg facility has 11 turbines, each 198 feet tall, that generate 6 megawatts of electricity. Maple Ridge has 195 turbines, each 390 feet high, that generate over 198 MW of power.
“They each had their own personalities,” Reinhardt said. “In Searsburg, they were lower and of a smaller scale, but they spin at a faster rpm, so the noise from them is more noticeable. However, the scale of the projects are night and day.”
At the Thursday meeting, the board also called the New York town of Martinsburg to speak with members of its Planning Board to see how it approached a wind farm bylaw when dealing with the Maple Ridge facility.
The Savoy board asked a number of questions pertaining to the required height of the turbines, how far they had to be from other structures, the amount of “flicker” (moving blades blocking the sun from nearby houses) and the inclusion of decommissioning expenses.
Mike Caldwell of the Martinsburg board said the two towns will face different problems because Savoy is located on a hilltop and Martinsburg is on a plateau. Because of that, he said, the Savoy board needs to consider how far the turbines should be set back from surrounding houses.
The Savoy board also asked about decommissioning costs for the Maple Ridge facility – something that has been a point of contention between the Planning Board and Minuteman. Caldwell admitted the town did not include such funds in its bylaw.
“That’s a mistake we’re probably going to be sorry for, down the line,” he said.
He also warned that the town should be careful in how it uses the money the facility will bring in. Martinsburg has been using its money to reduce the tax rate, but Caldwell said that is dangerous because the facility might not be open forever.
“The tax rate is about $5 per $1,000 (of property valuation) right now. If the facility closes, it could jump to $30 per $1,000 and really hurt people because it didn’t go up slowly,” he said. “We’re trying to set some funds aside to ease the blow, if it ever comes.”
Reinhardt said the Savoy board found the visits and the telephone call useful in determining where it will go next.
“I’m hopeful that we can use the month of May to wrap things up and have one more open meeting, and then, hopefully in June, we can have the public vote,” he said. “I think that is a realistic deadline.”
By Ryan Hutton, North Adams Transcript
18 April 2007
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