FAIRHAVEN – Wind may always be a part of Town Meeting debates, but on Tuesday night, it will be the focus of the bulk of the Special Town Meeting starting at 7 p.m. at Hastings Middle School.
Meeting members will decide that night whether it’s in the best interest of the town to enter into a 25-year deal with CCI Energy LLC, which proposes putting two energy-generating wind turbines on town property off of Arsene Street. While town officials are sold on the idea, some residents have expressed reservations about going with this particular project without further noise studies and stronger regulations about setbacks to keep the turbines as far as possible from homes.
“I strongly support wind turbines,” said Fairhaven Selectman Brian Bowcock, who has been at the forefront of the investigative drive for years to determine if and where a turbine project would fit in Fairhaven.
Dr. Bowcock notes that studies have shown that Arsene Street is an ideal location for the turbines for numerous reasons. The strength of the wind there is one crucial factor. In addition, the town-owned land is right next to a power grid which could connect to the turbines, making it easy to transfer the electricity generated there. While much of the energy would be sold, surplus would be used to power the town’s wastewater treatment plant and possibly the senior and recreation centers, all located near the proposed site of the turbines.
These reasons aren’t enough to convince Ken Pottel to support the project, however. The Wampanoag Lane resident and Town Meeting member has been one of the most vocal opponents of the project over the last several months, and he believes that the town is moving too quickly on a vote.
“I’m all for wind turbines and alternative energy sources, but if we don’t do this right it’s actually going to hurt the movement. Fairhaven’s project would be the largest in Massachusetts history. If we’re not going to do it right, don’t do it at all,” said Mr. Pottel.
Dr. Bowcock, however, notes that several projects have been discussed by the town, and that this is the first one officials feel is a good fit.
“I’ve been involved with this for at least five years. I’ve met with companies that are no longer in existence,” said the selectman, who would like to see even more sustainable energy projects, whether focused on wind, solar or wave power, in the future. “We have to explore as many alternative energy solutions as possible. This is an opportunity for the town to explore creating a revenue stream, and to have an impact on environmental and global issues.”
CCI is hoping to take advantage of the fact that the Mass Technology Collaborative, which has been involved in much of Fairhaven’s research, has two turbines available which were going to be used in Orleans for a project which has been delayed. If the company does not receive these, they still plan to move forward. The project, though, would be somewhat delayed.
Ann Richard, chairperson of the Fairhaven Democratic Committee and a Town Meeting member, is an ardent supporter of the wind plan. At Town Meeting on Saturday, she wore a homemade t-shirt emblazoned with a wind turbine and the word YES beneath it.
“So many people wanted one I’ve been making them in my dining room since then,” she said. “There are a lot of people into wind power. We don’t have a choice, really. We have to take a stand for alternate energy, and we’d really be the first town in the area to make a statement in this area.”
Mr. Pottel sees that statement as potentially being a negative one. He visited Hull’s wind turbines, along with residents who live in their shadows, and made a video which is on the website www.windwisefairhaven.com. He states that the video shows people living nearby are adversely affected by the noise and the “flicker effect” caused by the turbines rotating in the sun at certain times of day.
“We don’t want this project to be a disservice to the community. I had one woman tell me that she won’t even go outside at certain times of the day. People get headaches from the strobing. It’s just horrible. In Fairhaven this could affect hundreds of people,” he said.
The town has scheduled its own trip to Hull for Town Meeting members this weekend so they can see first-hand what the turbines are like, but Mr. Pottel does not think the visit will be fruitful since they will only be visiting in the morning.
“The morning is when it’s least windy. It’s the afternoon that’s the problem,” he said. “When we went up to Hull we found out it was even worse than we thought it would be.”
Aside from the article concerning the project approval, Alexander Gonsalves and others submitted several articles related to funding wind studies and limiting the town’s ability to enter into contracts on wind turbines until certain stipulations, like larger setbacks, were met.
By Michael Medeiros
10 May 2007
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