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Wind turbine supporters, opponents pack hearing over couple's request  

FITCHBURG – Debate continued Tuesday evening regarding a proposal to erect the city’s first wind turbine, as supporters and opponents filled a City Hall conference room for the proposal’s second public hearing.

The room was split about evenly between the supporters, who pushed for the project’s approval because of its environmental benefits, and opponents, who raised many concerns about the logistics of the turbine’s siting.

The 10-kilowatt turbine would be located in the Lemay family’s backyard at their Oak Hill Road home. It would power only their home and isn’t of an industrial scale. The Lemays have said their property has enough wind speed to generate a monthly average of 1,400 kilowatt-hours.

“I’m not going into this as a business,” said Greg Lemay, when asked whether he would become a turbine dealer because he’s licensed to construct them. “I’m going into this to install my own turbine and produce my own electricity and get off the grid.”

The city’s zoning board of appeals must rule on the proposal because the turbine’s approximate 120-foot height would violate city height restrictions, and there aren’t any regulations guiding their siting.

The hearing lasted for more than an hour and was continued until next month, according to the Lemays in an interview later Tuesday evening.

Most of the project skeptics live in the Lemays’ neighborhood. They raised concerns about noise, sight lines, how the tower would fall if it failed structurally and how far ice on the turbine’s blades could be thrown.

“Safety is one of my biggest concerns,” said Kevin Cleary, who lives on nearby Sarah Lane.

“It’s a worthwhile endeavor, but we don’t know enough about it,” said Don Cummings, who lives on nearby Pepper Road.

The Lemays were accompanied by an engineering expert from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, who said the turbine’s noise would only intermittently be louder than him talking in the conference room; that turbines buckle when they fall and don’t fall like trees; and that ice would not be thrown more than 50 feet the majority of the time.

Among the proposal’s supporters was Unitil, the city’s dominant energy supplier. John Bonazoli, manager of the company’s energy systems engineering, explained its support by saying, “We are for renewable energy.”

By Aaron Wasserman

Sentinel & Enterprise

10 October 2007

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

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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