In the face of some strong opposition to a proposed 410-foot-high Vestas wind turbine on the Cohasset side of Turkey Hill, the Hingham selectmen addressed the issue again this week.
Some residents who live in the Turkey Hill area voiced their concerns about the Trustees of Reservations’ plan to erect a 262-foot, 1.8-megawatt wind turbine on Trustees property atop Turkey Hill at last week’s board meeting.
As a result, Hingham Selectman Laura Burns and Interim Town Administrator Ted Alexiades attended the Dec. 8 Cohasset Planning Board meeting, along with a large group of Hingham residents. At that time, the proposal was up for further discussion. That hearing was continued to Wed., Dec. 15, at 9 p.m.
Hingham abutter concerns include noise, shadow flicker (strobing effect produced when the sun passes behind the turbine blades), and other potential impacts. The Trustees created photo simulations of how the turbine would look from various points in surrounding towns, and this raised concerns among Hingham neighbors about visual impacts.
Another concern involves the delivery of the massive structure to the site. Any plans to transport materials via Leavitt Street and Turkey Hill Lane would require review by Hingham’s permitting boards.
However, not all Hingham residents oppose the plan. Some who are members of the Responsible Energy Alternative Coalition of Hingham (REACH) endorse the proposal.
Supporters say that a UMass study identified Turkey Hill as an appropriate coastal site for wind turbine development because of the area’s favorable wind energy. The letter states that the turbine would be “off the top of the hill, away from open fields, in dense woods, and behind the [existing] 180-foot cell towers.”
It was also noted that REACH sponsored a widely publicized public meeting focusing on “Turkey Hill turbine renewable energy” with Trustees representatives at Hingham Public Library in October.
While acknowledging that such a turbine would be tall, REACH supporters claim it would be more visible in Hull than in most sections of Hingham.
Hingham Attorney Jeffery Tocchio, representing turbine opponents, spoke at the Dec. 8 Cohasset hearing and also at Tuesday’s selectmen meeting. In an email to the Hingham Journal following the Hingham meeting, he summarized his remarks:
“Our points today were to request the support of the Town [of Hingham] in impressing upon the Cohasset Planning Board the importance of making sure that the [Hingham] abutters can adequately comment upon the technical data,” Tocchio said. “The data as presented is faulty and incomplete, and the neighbors know, from living there and being there every day, that the assumptions miss the mark.”
According to Tocchio, the neighbors are hiring a sound expert and wish to have that expert present comments to the [Cohasset Planning] Board. “A peer reviewer advising the Board raised a few of the issues identified to my clients, yet failed to address a host of other issues,” Tocchio said. “We requested copies of that expert’s work, and we hope to have it produced by the town quickly, so that we may intelligently engage in that process.”
Tocchio also stated that “a few of the [Cohasset] Board members appear to be very anxious to push an approval through very quickly, and we hope that they will see the advantages to performing a complete, unbiased review.
“Thisisn’t about being for or against alternative energy. This is about whether it is proper for a conservation trustee to develop a for-profit utility grade industrial turbine on public conservation land, and whether they can do so without causing harm to a host of people, and properties,” Tocchio said.
The Trustees would own the turbine. The plan is to use the energy generated to offset the power they use throughout their properties. The Green Communities Act allows non-profits and other entities to generate energy and through a credit-based system offset energy used elsewhere in the state.
Steve Sloan, Trustees of Reservations Greater Boston Regional Director, told the Hingham Journal following the Hingham meeting that the turbine produces enough energy to offset the electrical needs of 700 typical homes in Massachusetts. “At this point we’re not sure where the energy will go,” he said. “We submitted a power bid through a statewide process with the Department of Public Utilities that would allow larger energy suppliers to bid for electricity generated by our turbine.”
Sloan said the Trustees “were very pleased with the number of people who turned out to voice support for wind energy in Hingham and our project [at the Hingham meeting].”
“The Turkey Hill wind turbine presents an exciting opportunity for South Shore residents who love the outdoors and are concerned about the impacts of climate change to make real progress in creating more sustainable communities,” he said. “The Trustees are proud to be leading by example in the effort to safeguard our natural areas by creating clean wind energy. As responsible stewards of our open space properties, we feel compelled to address the single greatest threat they face – climate change. Most people know intuitively that the climate is changing – they realize they’re running the air conditioner more in the summer, they know winters are getting milder and spring is coming earlier. What they may not know is that these changes are already placing great stress on our forests and other ecosystems.”
Sloan went on to say, “For decades, we could safeguard our natural areas simply by acquiring the land and managing it effectively. The threat posed today by climate change requires bolder and broader action. We must come together to ensure the health and vitality of our communities and our open space lands.”
The Trustees are “excited to be working on the South Shore where so many residents have already embraced wind power, from the two Hull turbines to Cohasset’s thoughtful wind energy bylaw andHingham’s renewable energy commission,” Sloan said. “When completed, the project will generate enough energy to power 700 homes and will demonstrate that renewable energy production is a viable option for communities such as Cohasset and Hingham when sited appropriately and managed responsibly.”
Selectmen Chairman Bruce Rabuffo said the two-hour discussion hosted by the board Tuesday was a “great meeting in the sense that an opportunity was provided for both sides to be heard.
“Certainly Cohasset, like Hingham, has the right to initiate a project. In this case, the project has an impact on our citizens and we want to be sure their rights and issues are heard and addressed in the approval process,” Rabuffo said in a telephone interview.
Acknowledging that the Cohasset Planning Board is the permitting authority for this project, Rabuffo said that he and Interim Town Administrator Ted Alexiades met with Cohasset Selectmen Chairman Karen Quigley and Interim Town Manager Steve Lombard Tuesday and received assurances that the Planning Board “has historically done just that – wait until the questions are answered and then render their decision.”
The Hingham Selectmen voted to send a letter to the Cohasset Planning Board Wednesday morning asking them not to close the hearing Dec. 15. “We think more time is needed to address the issues – to listen to our citizens and to respond to their concerns,” Rabuffo said.
The Hingham Selectmen also voted to send a letter to Lombard asking for details of how the turbine, if approved, would be built. “Will they be coming through Hingham roads or not?” Rabuffo said. “We want to be sure that roadway and environmental issues are addressed.”
Rabuffo went on to say, “We have good relations with Cohasset, and both towns want to [keep it that way]. It’s their project today and it could be one of our projects that’s under review tomorrow, but we want to be sure the process is followed.”
This is the second time a wind turbine project has been before the Cohasset Planning Board. The board denied a two-turbine proposal to be located off Rte. 3A near Hingham Lumber earlier this year.
The hearing was continued to Wed., Dec. 15, at 9 p.m. as the Hingham Journal went to press. The entire Trustees of Reservations project application may be viewed at the Planning Board office at Cohasset Town Hall on Highland Avenue.
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