CHARLEMONT – A mix of advocates and adversaries came to voice their concerns and opinions about the potential construction of a 900-kilowatt wind turbine at the Berkshire East Ski Resort during the July 16 public hearing.
In the wake of the balloon test, Planning Board Chairwoman Gisela Walker said that she wanted townspeople to have the opportunity to speak out while they still had a mental image of the turbine’s height fresh in their minds.
Walker said that the top balloon was flown at 330 feet to give people a visualization of the turbine’s maximum height while the lower balloon was flown at 250 feet to indicate the height of the hub.
“There was a lot of concern raised by people who wanted to know ‘does it have to be this high?’ and ‘does it have to be in this location?’” Walker said.
“Everybody is sort of torn between knowing that renewable energy is a good thing and wanting to support a local business, but on the other hand this is impacting the views of a lot of people, so it’s not going to be an easy trade-off.”
“It’s important that the turbine actually achieve the capacity factor that we’re estimating, which is 27 percent,” James Schaefer, co-owner of Berkshire East, said. “If you start lowering the turbine or moving it behind or lower on the mountain it changes the production characteristics.”
The wind turbine will reportedly offset 1,350 tons of carbon dioxide a year which is equivalent to planting 91,500 young trees a year as well as supply Berkshire East’s electricity needs with 100 percent wind power.
While some viewed the installation of a wind turbine as a sign of progress, others thought it to be a form of visual pollution.
Among the supporters in the group of about 25 people was Raymond Purinton who urged townspeople to support one of the town’s largest revenue sources.
“I think that this is a fantastic addition for Berkshire East: They need it. They need it to help them financially to keep the mountain going,” Purinton said. “It’s not going to hurt my view – I think it’s beautiful to sit there and watch them. We need Berkshire East and Berkshire East needs this turbine to survive. So please, support this plan.”
“I think that this is a wonderful way to bring electricity in and I totally support it,” Helen Carcio said. “I had a revelation driving home from Greenfield today. I said to myself, ‘I’m going to start looking at my environment and say, ‘What do I see’ What I saw was not the pastoral beauty while driving along Route 2 . . . what I saw every 50 feet were telephone poles. I never really noticed them before. Whatever we have for the moment soon becomes part of the landscape and we don’t see it anymore.”
Not all on board
The most popular reason for not wanting to see a wind turbine perched upon the mountain ridge was based upon aesthetics.
“I don’t think [a wind turbine] is a thing of beauty. It’s not a work of art,” John Atwater said. “It may be an engineering masterpiece, but in my eyes it’s not pleasant. I understand that Berkshire East needs to save money – there’s no question about that and we need Berkshire East. But I think that it is going to be an eyesore.”
Since first hearing about the wind turbine, Ellen Landauer said that she has been taking a ‘crash course’ online, regarding wind turbines and potential health risks that they may pose to people living within close proximity and, as a result, is against the installation of the turbine.
“I did some research and apparently there is an incredible amount of research already being done by medical doctors and researchers all over the world as far as some of the health hazards of living near a turbine go,” Landauer said. “Dizziness, specifically vertigo, anxiety and depression are among the neurologically-linked phenomenon. Other symptoms include headache, loss of balance, nausea and disorientation. They are a neurologically-linked response from a balance disturbance that people experience from shadow flicker and low frequency noise.”
Other townspeople were concerned with whether or not they would hear any noise generated by the turbine from across the river, such as a whirring sound.
“The machine does make some sound,” Kevin Schulte of Sustainable Energy Development, Inc. said. “But the distance it is from residences, the distance it is from the school and downtown, is greater than 3,000 feet and should not be a nuisance to anyone here.
“Low frequency noise has been an issue that has been brought up by a number of people and all the numbers are well under 3,000 feet in terms of what doctors recommend for shadow flicker and all those things,” Schulte said. “Low frequency noise is tied to the noise that comes from the hub of the gear box in most conventional wind turbines. One of the reasons we chose the technology that we did for Berkshire East is that there is no gear box.”
At the close of the hearing, Schaefer urged residents that the time to start establishing a better living environment is now.
“This wind turbine is going in for an important reason,” Schaefer said, “and that’s because if our country doesn’t act locally, if we don’t as individuals take action and start cleaning up our environment, than we’re never going to get anywhere.”
The next hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 6 at 7 p.m. in the Hawlemont Regional School cafeteria.
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