BUZZARDS BAY – Massachusetts officials last night heard mostly praise with a smattering of criticism and suggestions for their plans to harness wind energy on state-owned land.
“Be sure that the cities and towns are well-informed while the projects go forward on state land,” Bourne Town Administrator Thomas Guerino warned the officials during a public hearing at Massachusetts Maritime Academy attended by about 75 people.
Gov. Deval Patrick has called for the development of 2,000 megawatts of wind power in the state by 2020, and the Legislature has moved forward with a cornucopia of legislation and policy initiatives to support the renewable energy sector.
Last night’s hearing was the first of two public meetings being held to take comments on a study that identified up to 947 megawatts of potential wind power on state land. The second session is scheduled for next week in the Berkshires.
“It is disappointing that more sites were not identified in the southeastern part of the state, where the wind resources are abundant,” said Barbara Hill, executive director of Clean Power Now, a nonprofit group that supports the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm, which would be located in federal waters.
Aesthetic objections should not play a part in the state’s siting considerations, Hill said.
Jennifer Ryan, legislative director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, said state officials must weigh the benefits of increased wind power against the impact on conservation areas. All affected state property should be well mapped, standards set and a public process in place before any decisions are made, she said. In Massachusetts, state properties are among the few large tracts of open land left on the East Coast, she said.
Frank Haggerty of Concerned Citizens for Responsible Wind Power argued state officials should proceed carefully as they consider the impact of wind turbines on residents and the environment. As an example, he cited a plan presented to town officials to put a commercial wind turbine in Mattapoisett. The proposal made no mention of vernal pools in the area and ignored the potential impact on endangered roseate terns that nest on nearby Ram Island, Haggerty said.
A new plan to locate a meteorological tower in Nasketucket State Reservation in Mattapoisett proceeded before a public hearing, he added.
“We know how we don’t want to do it,” state Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Philip Giudice said after Haggerty spoke.
Overall, Giudice said he was surprised by the level of support for developing wind turbines on state lands.
Giudice said he did not know what kind of comments to expect during the upcoming public hearing in the Berkshires.
Although most state properties identified with wind power potential are located in western Massachusetts, one area identified in a study of wind energy potential on state-owned lands released earlier this year indicated that the Massachusetts Military Reservation could host up to 46.5 megawatts of wind power.
Last week, the National Guard announced plans to place 17 wind turbines on the 22,000-acre military base. The turbines, which would be located at the northern and southern ends of the base, would be 400 feet high and could generate up to 25.5 megawatts of electricity, according to the Guard.
Thomas “Gray” Curtis of Cataumet, a member of the Bourne energy committee but speaking last night as a private citizen, said he hoped the state would work with Bourne officials to make some of the land on the base available for municipal wind projects, especially considering the town had once owned the land.
“Just a couple (of turbines) would be really helpful for the town,” he said.
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