FITCHBURG— A public meeting about wind turbine technology packed the Veterans Memorial Room in City Hall yesterday with residents. Several attendees peppered the conversation with independent research opposing the machines.
Sally Wright, a research fellow and staff engineer for the Renewable Energy Research Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, had prepared an 80-slide presentation for the group on the nuts and bolts of wind power and its possible benefits and drawbacks. The forum was part of a proposal approved by the City Council to investigate possible changes to the zoning ordinance to allow wind energy systems in the city.
But several in the crowd were not new to the subject. Robert Hertel said his father owns land off Caswell Road, where in 2004 a Townsend-based developer tried to put a 120-foot wind testing tower to measure the potential of wind in the area.
Zoning laws blocked tower plans. Rural residential zoning limits a structure to 36 feet high.
“I oppose the windmills,” Mr. Hertel said.
Ms. Wright, however, said the advantages of wind power far outweigh the negatives.
“Wind is about reducing emissions from fossil fuels,” she said.
Though Fitchburg would not be a desirable site for developers because of wind speed, she said, residents could apply as a community to erect a turbine on public land.
The turbines would not take the place of coal, but would help reduce the community’s reliance on it.
“The role of the turbines is energy, not capacity,” Ms. Wright said.
David J. Streb, planning coordinator, said the presentation was meant to be informative and a separate hearing process would be held before any amendments to the city’s zoning would move forward.
By M. Elizabeth Roman
12 July 2007
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