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Lenox site can support wind turbines

LENOX – A site atop Lenox Mountain could accommodate one or two wind turbines, according to the latest update on the site’s capabilities.

For nine months, the town has been studying wind velocities on Lenox Mountain, a ridgeline cited as potentially amenable to wind turbines. The study is expected to be completed in April, but town officials now have a better understanding of the amount of energy that could be produced there.

The limit on how many turbines could be placed atop the mountain is based mainly on topography. And though town officials had not planned on a project of a larger scale, Town Manager Gregory Federspiel said this news could allay some residents’ concerns.

“The fact that no more than two turbines could be placed there should alleviate some concerns of some people who thought they were going to see a whole ridgeline [of turbines],” said Federspiel.

The study has been paid for though a $79,000 grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the state authority for developing the clean energy sector. Potentially the first town-owned wind turbine in Berkshire County, Federspiel said the project could save a minimum of $100,000 a year once any turbines become operational.

Wind velocities are measured using a sonar device on the mountain, and the latest figures show slightly higher speeds than previously recorded.

Wind speeds at 50 feet about the mountain have been measured at 7.8 meters per second, while wind speeds at 80 feet above the mountain have been measured at 8.2 meters per second.

“The wind data continues to look pretty promising,” said Federspiel.

The minimum standard for wind speeds to merit power-generating turbines is six meters per second, or approximately 14 mph.

Public forums on the project will likely be held in February. Town officials are also planning to reach out to officials in Richmond, where a turbine could be visible from some locations.

Though unlikely, Federspiel also said the town could look into using an access road near the Richmond border.

Richmond Town Administrator Matthew Kerwood said the two sides will likely meet at some point, but reserved comment on the matter until specifics are available.

Though Federspiel had originally planned to have the matter on the warrant of the 2011 annual town meeting, he said it is more likely final approval would be voted on at a later date.