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No windfall for now

It is easy to commiserate with the towns of Florida and Monroe, which stand to lose thousands of dollars in revenue due to Wednesday’s setback for the Hoosac Wind Project (Transcript, May 17).

The decision by a state administrative magistrate that the 30-megawatt, 20-turbine project did not comply with wetlands laws may not be its death knell, but there certainly will be no building on Bakke Mountain and Crum Hill anytime soon.

Good. Because it is far harder to commiserate with PPM Energy of Portland, Ore., which stands to gain millions in taxpayer-funded subsidies for building a wind farm that would generate just over a tenth of 1 percent of the electricity used in Massachusetts – and one that would replace not one iota of reliance on fossil fuels.

To achieve its end, PPM Energy would have to build 4 1/2 miles of access roads, ripping apart and blasting mountain-top land and crossing numerous streams and wetlands. As pointed out by Magistrate Natalie S. Monroe, the company did not complete a required wildlife-habitat evaluation, let alone dot its i’s and cross its t’s when attempting to meet state wetlands regulations.

The Transcript is not against windmills – in their proper places, with proper regulations. But these turbines, as we have pointed out before, are not the quaint, picturesque Dutch windmills of yore. They are hulking machines that, in Hoosac Wind’s case, would tower a full 144 higher (from base to tip of blade at the highest point) than the 11 windmills in Searsburg, Vt., which proponents so often erroneously tout for comparison. The Searsburg windmills, standing 196 feet tall, fell just under federal mandates for lighting. If completed, the Hoosac towers all would have white lights flashing during the day and red lights flashing at night – as would the 338-foot towers on Brodie Mountain in Hancock, if Berkshire Wind Power ever gets them under way.

Jiminy Peak’s wind turbine, to be erected this summer, is another matter. Foremost, it is only one windmill, and the bulk of the power generated will directly benefit the Hancock resort, which is making a substantial local investment in the project. At 253 feet tall, it will be far less noticeable than its proposed counterparts. This is a project we can support and one that may become a model for other ski areas throughout the country.

It is notable that the residents of Searsburg, still home to this region’s only completed windmill project, told the Vermont Public Service Board via a straw vote last week that they did not want more windmills to be built by PPM Energy – which would like to erect 15 to 24 more turbines on adjacent Green Mountain Forest land, each a whopping 410 feet high.

The Berkshires and the Green Mountains should be home to small-scale windmills, placed in locations where they won’t ravage the landscape, impact wildlife and mar our scenic vistas. We don’t need giant monstrosities erected by out-of-state or foreign companies that blow hot air about improving our environment while reaping huge profits at taxpayers’ expense.


18 May 2007