My previous letter to the editor included a reminder than any object can be “out of context,” such as wearing dirty overalls to a black-tie dinner or featuring a Victorian teapot in your 18th-century period kitchen, It is also possible to be “out of scale” such as parking a tractor-trailer in your driveway or having an industrial refrigerator in your one-room apartment.
As the true magnitude and dimensional reality of the Mt. Massaemet industrial wind proposal comes into sharper focus, the scale and context issues in my mind need greater scrutiny and consideration.
This scrutiny is urged because of some of the innocent, well-meaning and instinctively appreciative comments about wind power I noted in the recent Independent “Voices” interviews. The nostalgic notion of wind power and/or the sculptural qualities of turbines is far different than the reality most people experience when they are required to actually live with turbines. It is obviously also quite difficult to pre-imagine their true scale and impact.
I could not help but wonder, when I attended the Oct. 17 Shelburne Planning Board meeting and looked at Main Street and Massaemet Mountain painted on the backdrop in that meeting room, what the large-scale towers would do to that iconic and cherished view and painting.
In parsing the issue of wind turbine scale, height, length, proportionality and woodland clearing for road and construction access are important!
The proposed turbine height of 460+ feet makes them taller than 98 percent of all buildings in Boston and Albany, subservient only to the John Hancock Tower in Boston, the Corning Tower in Albany and possibly a few other buildings.
The turbines are essentially half the height of Mt. Massaemet itself, 1,100 feet. This is also 190 feet or 19 stories taller than the Berkshire East turbine at 277 feet, which is our nearest current reference.
Given the 5,600 lineal feet of the turbine installation and using just a 700-foot width – the safe space for the turbines to fall or throw ice in a storm – the turbines would consume an area approximately equal to much of the settled area of the village of Shelburne Falls on both sides of the Deerfield River.
It is easy for me to conclude that large area would be proportionally out of scale with your diminutive village and with the mountain itself. It would simply dominate Massaemet, the Tower, the village and establish a new, iconic – and for some, unwelcome – symbol as the local and regional identity.
Access road impacts
The required heaviest lift cranes required to erect the turbines have a track width of approximately 28 feet. This one-mile-plus construction road requires a well-prepared width of at least 30-35 feet with shoulders, plus drainage and steep expected side slopes. This is dimensionally equivalent to Route 2 width, but on the mountain. In addition, clearing for turbine assembly, transmission routing and substation construction would be required.
Heavily loaded semi-trailers and concrete trucks require similar road dimensions and for the road not to be steeper than 12 percent grade. The area of woodland cut could, in even modestly steep situations, average l00-feet-wide to account for killing and wind throw damage to adjacent shallow-rooted forest trees. The total area of disturbance – once transmission lines, a substation and an access road to the towers are constructed – would easily exceed 50 acres, or slightly less than half of the total settled area of Shelburne Falls.
Whether you wish it or not, the timing of the Massaemet proposal places your town in a position of establishing a review and decision-making precedent for what are likely to be numerous wind proposals for surrounding communities, including Ashfield.
Dealing with only this modestly important “scale issue,” my conclusion is obvious and simple: this Massaemet industrial wind turbine proposal is both out of scale and out of context with the cherished rolling hills, village and otherwise celebrated and visited landscape. It would significantly diminish their stature and our collective experience and memory of them.
This project simply should not happen and we should find other, more relevant means to assist and protect our esteemed farmers and farms.
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