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Happy with windmill, Jiminy mulls another  

HANCOCK – Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort is looking ahead to two possible construction projects while gleaning success in the form of thousands of kilowatts from its new wind turbine generator, which began spinning on July 31.

“We are working with a cell-phone-tower developer,” James Van Dyke, vice president of environmental sustainability at the resort, said Tuesday. “And, the long and short of it is, we do have a second site in mind for another turbine in Lanesborough, but that’s not something we would do for another five years or more.”

He said multiple developers have explored the feasibility of building a cell phone tower on the resort’s property across the past five or six years. He said he is hopeful one company, Mariner Tower, will pin down a plan.

“We’re pretty close to the permitting process,” he said. “We want to choose a site for the tower that would satisfy the greatest number of consumers but place the least impact on neighbors who don’t care to look at it.”

He said plans to build a turbine in Lanesborough are vague, especially since it would be difficult to connect the resort to a turbine that far away.

Van Dyke said Jiminy’s existing turbine at the peak of its mountain produced 172,048 kilowatt hours of electricity in August. During that month, it worked at only 89 percent capacity because of a defective battery charger, he said. The turbine has three batteries, one for each blade, which will stop the machine from spinning in the event of a main grid power outage.

Even with decreased capacity and August’s tendency to be the region’s least windy month of the year, Van Dyke said, the generator produced more electricity than the resort could use. Jiminy Peak exported 127,381 kilowatt hours to National Grid. Not everything at the resort is connected to the turbine’s circuit, so Jiminy Peak still had to buy back 12,988 kilowatt hours to supply those buildings with electricity.

Van Dyke said he still has not calculated an energy use comparison with 2006. He said so far in September, the turbine has been working at 100 percent capacity and should increase its production in the coming months because November, January and March are usually the windiest of the year. General Electric Co., which supplied the turbine, says its turbines generally perform at an average of 94 percent capacity.

“In a word, it’s doing great,” Van Dyke said of the turbine.

Jiminy’s turbine has spun every day since July 31, he said, adding that there has been a misconception that the turbine sometimes spins using a motor.

“There’s not a motor to turn it,” he said. “Actually, if we need to do service work on it and need a blade in a particular location, we need to wait for the wind to turn it. There’s just no mechanized way to do that.”

As for the turbine’s effect on neighbors, some have said that the turbine can be noisy at times.

“It sounds like a woof, woof, woof,” Judy Leab, co-owner of Ioka Valley Farm on Route 43 said Monday. “It’s like a quiet plane going overhead.”

Leab said she did not wholly object to the turbine’s presence and supported “green” energy, but she wishes the tower wasn’t there. She said she fears the turbine’s noise might increase in the winter when there are fewer leaves and plants to buffer the sound.

“It can be majestic-looking on a nice clear day, but I wouldn’t want to see a cell phone tower. Those can be downright ugly,” she said.

“The sound isn’t really loud, but noticeable – especially on a quiet night,” another neighbor, Marjorie Feathers, who is chairwoman of the town Historical Commission, said Tuesday.

Leab and Marjorie said they did not hear the noise every day. No one has filed complaints at Town Hall or with Jiminy Peak.

Other neighbors within sight of the turbine said they have not heard anything.

“I hardly know it’s there now – you can’t hear anything, not a sound,” said Roger Johnson, who owns an open-air seasonal store nearby on Route 43.

Van Dyke said the only time he has heard noise coming from the spinning of the turbine is when he is standing directly next to it.

“If the neighbors are saying they can hear it, I believe them, but the wind must have to be just right,” he said.

By Bonnie Obremski

North Adams Transcript

13 September 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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