"Believe me, when people find out how much road has to be built, how much watershed has to be disturbed, how much blasting you have to do to permanently alter the rock formation, it’ll be too late. Drop it and do something else that’s practical."
LENOX – This town has had more than its share of donnybrooks this year.
But a new one is lurking and, judging from a sneak preview during the most recent Select Board meeting, it threatens to erupt at the next meeting.
The issue is alternative energy – solar, wind, or both. When Selectman David Roche suggested that wind energy be put on the back burner, as he put it, in favor of a full boil on solar, which could save the town $125,000 a year on its municipal energy bill, a well-mannered but intense debate commenced.
“We’ve been through the wringer the past few months,” said Roche, “and we have a lot of agenda items to move this town forward in many areas. To get bogged down where we’re going to have a lot of meetings and forums, I’m afraid, will mean solar will get swept under the rug because we’ll be attracting large crowds for and against wind.”
Roche asserted that prolonged discussion on the pros and cons of a potential wind-turbine site atop Lenox Mountain would block progress on solar-energy installations. “We’re behind the eight ball on this,” he said. “Solar doesn’t present a lot of controversial issues. We can play catch-up.”
Pittsfield, Richmond and Northampton have made major strides toward solar, according to Roche.
But Scott Laugenour, a member of the Lenox Environment Committee and a Green-Rainbow Party leader favoring wind and solar alternative
energy, objected to “putting something on the back burner before we get all our information. Š This would be doing a disservice to our quest for alternative energy.”
He advocated public forums on both options and insisted that “we shouldn’t have make any decision like this in secret.”
Select Board member Dia Trancynger argued that “solar is much more user-friendly in this community in terms of acceptance.”
But Select Board Chairman John McNinch voiced sharp dissent, declaring that “personally, I couldn’t disagree with you guys more on that. The bottom line is alternative energy and we should be looking at all sources and continue to go forward getting information on wind. We need to look at ways to save money and help the environment.”
McNinch also asserted that “we should not put wind on the back burner just because it’s not a popular item.” He advocated full consideration of both alternatives.
Resident Jonas Dovydenas, whose property is adjacent to a potential wind-turbine site on the Lenox Mountain ridge line, called the turbine proposal “fatally flawed” and strongly urged the Select Board to put it aside in favor of solar energy.
“The study for the site you have omits the fact that you’re going to do the work in a watershed,” he said. “I guarantee that will lead to endless lawsuits by citizens afraid of having their water impacted.”
A report commissioned by the town through a $90,000 grant and presented to the Select Board last May identified the often-windswept Lenox Mountain summit, at a 1,800-foot elevation, as a promising site for one or two turbines that could meet all municipal energy needs and then some, yielding annual revenue of $436,000 for the town.
Dovydenas argued that “any hydrologist will tell you it will impact the water supply. Š You’re not looking at the fatal flaw. It doesn’t belong there and I don’t think you should concentrate on that.
“You don’t want to have another ‘memorial in the park,’” he warned. “Believe me, when people find out how much road has to be built, how much watershed has to be disturbed, how much blasting you have to do to permanently alter the rock formation, it’ll be too late. Drop it and do something else that’s practical.”
Roche thereupon withdrew his motion to focus on solar instead of wind and the Select Board voted for a full discussion on alternative energy options at the Wednesday, Sept. 14, meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. and is televised by CTSB for Time-Warner cable customers on public access Channel 18.
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