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Solar power favored in Lenox  

A recent groundswell of opposition [to wind turbines] in Lenox includes other Select Board members as well as state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox.

Credit:  By Clarence Fanto, Berkshire Eagle Staff, www.berkshireeagle.com 20 September 2011 ~~

LENOX – On the eve of a Select Board discussion about alternative power, the town is tilting against wind turbines and toward solar energy.

“Wind power is much too invasive,” said Select Board member Linda Messana. “The technology isn’t where it needs to be. It’s too expensive to install and repair.”

Solar provides the bigger bang for the buck, she said.

“Windmills have a noise impact; they affect birds and animals,” she asserted, referring to the audible effects of the wind-turbine installation on a ridge line in Searsburg, Vt., just north of the Massachusetts border.

Citizens, especially those living near Lenox Mountain in Lenox and Richmond, have been rallying against an early stage proposal to install wind turbines on the mountain’s west-facing ridge line.

They have formed a group, Preserve Lenox Mountain, which is sponsoring a free film showing and discussion this Saturday evening at the Berkshire Museum’s Little Cinema.

“Windfall,” an 82-minute documentary, depicts the effects of a wind-turbine proposal on the small, economically-depressed upstate New York town of Meredith. It will begin at 7:30, followed by a reception and informal discussion with refreshments.

The film, directed by Laura Israel, is said to describe the intensifying controversy in Meredith as “the drawbacks of wind turbines are seen as potentially outweighing the benefits,” according to a description on
the film-buff website by Rotten Tomatoes.

“Israel keeps her camera rolling in order to capture the arguments on both sides and highlight the occasional absurdities of small-town politics,” the description added.

The documentary has attracted some attention at several international film festivals, but it has not yet been distributed commercially.

The opposition group’s website lists no personnel or contacts. Leaders of Preserve Lenox Mountain could not be reached for comment Monday.

A recent groundswell of opposition in Lenox includes other Select Board members as well as state Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox.

“I’m a big proponent of solar, not as big a fan of wind,” he told The Eagle on Monday. “Solar could be implemented very quickly with little opposition but with immediate benefits.”

“What Lenox should do is look at all the options and understand the true costs of wind,” Pignatelli said.

He listed major maintenance costs for wind-turbine projects as well as a 20-year life span.

“What would we do at the end of the life span?” he asked. “I’m wondering if the capital costs of installing wind turbines are worth it.”

According to Pignatelli, “With everything going on in Lenox, they should stay away from controversy and get immediate relief for taxpayers with solar. They could decide this fall and do an installation next spring.”

Potential solar installations could be placed atop Lenox Middle and Memorial High School or on the town’s old landfill, Pignatelli said. “We get immediate benefits, and it’s out of sight, out of mind.”

Also, he said, “the natural beauty of the Berkshires is more important than wind turbines on top of a mountain ridge. If we lose our natural beauty, we’re going to become Anyplace, U.S.A.”

According to a study prepared by Weston Solutions of Concord, N.H., a single wind-turbine installation on Lenox Mountain would cost $5.3 million ($8.3 million for two) and produce $436,000 in annual revenue for the town. The turbine would be 262 feet above the 1,800-foot ridge line.

But major access-road upgrades would be needed, there would be a cumbersome permitting process and there’s strong opposition and the potential for lawsuits against the town.

The Select Board will discuss alternative energy during its 7 p.m. meeting Wednesday. The session is televised live for Time-Warner cable viewers by CTSB Channel 18.

Source:  By Clarence Fanto, Berkshire Eagle Staff, www.berkshireeagle.com 20 September 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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