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Turbine decision steals wind from opposition  

Credit:  By Kim Ring TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF, www.telegram.com 4 March 2011 ~~

BRIMFIELD – A wind turbine project planned for West Mountain near Steerage Rock has been scrapped, a First Wind official said yesterday in an e-mail.

First Wind had planned to build eight to 10 400-foot wind turbines on the ridge just north of Route 20, but said yesterday that wind data collected since last spring showed the area was not suitable for their project.

“We’ve said all along that we were very early in the project and that we needed to collect data,” First Wind’s communications director, John Lamontagne, said.

Mr. Lamontagne said the vocal opposition to the project did not weigh in the company’s decision, and the data alone were the reason for the decision not to seek permitting.

News that the turbines would not be installed and that a tower erected last year to collect data would be coming down as soon as weather permits had the usually outspoken Judith A. Sessler speechless yesterday.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever been speechless,” she said, laughing. She has been one of the town’s most vocal critics of the First Wind project.

She said she’s pleased to hear that the area, which is considered be a historic site, won’t be developed and the towers won’t dot the ridge, which is “the last vestige of Bay Path that is virtually untouched.”

Ms. Sessler said she hopes that efforts to have the area accepted as a National Park will be renewed now that the project is not moving forward.

A state website describes the area: “Steerage Rock is noted as the highest elevation along a major Indian trail (known to settlers as the Bay Path) that extended from the south shore of Massachusetts to the Connecticut River.”

In September, dozens of residents spoke out against the wind turbines, and selectmen voted not to accept $30,000 from First Wind. But the company said then it was still interested in pursuing the project.

Selectmen said if they had decided to accept the money, the town would not have been bound to any future agreements, nor would it have been forced to allow the turbines to be constructed.

The money would have been used to fund research about the project. But some residents said they would rather pay for the research themselves and feared taking the money would leave the town indebted to First Wind.

The ad hoc group No Brimfield Wind began working to halt the project, and opponents spoke about health risks and decreasing property values they anticipated should the turbines be constructed.

Virginia A. Irvine, a founding member of the group, said yesterday she thinks there is more to the decision to halt the project than just the wind study data.

“Two weeks ago NSTAR pulled out of its deal to buy electricity from Brimfield Wind,” she said.

While opponents are pleased the Brimfield project won’t happen, Ms. Irvine is still concerned about proposed legislation that she believes would remove local control over siting of wind turbines.

“The wind siting act has been filed again and we will continue to fight that,” she said.

She added that the experience the group had in Brimfield is something she hopes no other towns are forced to experience.

Mr. Lamontage said the company “appreciates the support we did receive and that some folks were open to hearing about the economic benefits of wind power.”

He said that while the company is based in Boston, it isn’t currently working on any projects in the Bay State.

Source:  By Kim Ring TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF, www.telegram.com 4 March 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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