BRIMFIELD – A meteorological tower is taking wind readings on West Mountain, near Steerage Rock, but the readings on whether residents want wind turbines dotting the ridge in 2012 won’t be taken until the matter goes before voters.
Still some residents last night seemed to oppose the proposal in which as many as eight turbines could be sited on the mountain, just north of Route 20. A group called No Brimfield Wind handed out fliers outside Hitchcock Free Academy last night, while inside officials from First Wind, CLF Ventures and the state provided information about wind power, saying the state needs to focus on wind energy to decrease dependence on environmentally damaging fossil fuels.
Steven Clarke, director of Wind Energy Development for the state Department of Energy Resources, said wind power is needed in Massachusetts, where consumers pay the fourth-highest prices for electricity in the nation. Development of the turbine sites also will add jobs and help the local economy.
Texas, the nation’s leader in wind power production, has much lower rates. Only Hawaii, New York and Connecticut pay higher rates than Bay State residents. The state wants to increase wind power generation so that 20 percent of Massachusetts energy comes from the renewable resource by 2013, Mr. Clarke said.
The Brimfield proposal is still in its early stages, though leases have been established and the data-gathering tower has been in place for a few months. It will collect at least a year’s worth of information that will be paired with bird studies, vernal pool information and noise surveys before any final decisions could be made, said David Velez of First Wind.
Mr. Velez said the company hires local workers whenever it can and expects to give the town payments in lieu of taxes for 20 years. Those payments would likely be between $140,000 and $170,000 annually. First Wind also would support local causes, he said.
While the meeting was for information purposes, some residents expressed opposition to the project, shaking their heads when a simulated photo of how the turbines might look was shown and interrupting during a question-and-answer session. In the end, Mr. Velez said, voters will likely have the final say on the matter because they will have to vote on whether to change local bylaws to allow the building of turbines.
A third information session, focused on the environment and site issues, will be held Sept. 21 at Hitchcock Free Academy. That session will be more interactive, said Jo Anne Shatkin of CLF Ventures.
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