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Sounding warning on wind power

LENOX – The citizens’ group opposing a potential municipal turbine project atop Lenox Mountain has stepped up its campaign following a recent informational session featuring wind-energy opponent Eleanor Tillinghast, co-founder of Green Berkshires, Inc.

During a Power Point presentation attended by about 100 residents at the Lenox Community Center, Tillinghast – who’s also president of the Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters – described herself as a one-time supporter of wind turbines.

“Over time, my position on wind turbines on forested ridge-lines started to shift,” she said, adding that Midwest or West Texas locations may be appropriate but that Berkshire sites present “too many environmental hazards.”

Describing her presentation as factual and documented, she claimed that Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed 1,200 turbines across the state by 2020, or 929 if the off-shore Cape Wind project is completed, assuming all are the same size as the possible Lenox Mountain project.

Tillinghast argued that 188 turbines on 19 mountaintops in the county “would destroy the Berkshires.”

Later, she claimed a potential of 800 turbines in the Berkshires, making the county “a place where we don’t want to live.”

During a public hearing held at Jiminy Peak on Sept. 7, the state’s Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan said new wind-siteing laws could clear the way for 188 turbines statewide, with “many” in the western counties of Massachusetts.

Patrick has set a goal of 2,000 megawatts of wind energy in the state by 2020, enough to power 800,000 homes, but has not detailed how many turbines would be required.

The state has published maps showing several dozen possible locations in the Berkshires and adjoining counties with potentially favorable wind speeds.

Tillinghast also derided the proposed Wind Energy Reform Siting Act (WESRA) as “very dangerous” for the Berkshires because it would “override existing town and state laws and consolidate decisions in a single board at the local and state levels.”

The proposed act, not yet approved by state lawmakers, would give wind-energy developers the option of using existing procedures or fast-tracking projects to a local permitting board made up of conservation commission, planning board and zoning board representatives. Appeals would be streamlined to avoid lengthy court battles.

According to Tillinghast, the blade tips of the wind turbines and flashing lights atop the tower proposed for Lenox Mountain would be “highly visible” in many areas.

Among her other objections to wind energy:

n The state depends on oil for less than one percent of its electricity.

n Wind turbines would not reduce electricity costs.

n Wind speeds on designated sites are unpredictable and intermittent.

n Wind turbines would discourage tourism.

n Wind-energy projects, “which would dwarf our landscape,” won’t create permanent jobs nor will they change “consumption habits.”

n Blasting on Lenox Mountain would be required to construct a turbine.

n Turbines would be a “public safety threat” because of the potential for explosions that could propel parts of blades up to a mile away, “showers” of blocks of ice, “balls of fire” at the installations, as well as collapse or breaks of the turbines.

n “Strobing effects” of lights atop turbine towers, as well as “extreme annoyance, headaches, dizziness and sleep disturbance” would result from low-frequency noise as far as six miles away from the site.

n Property values would plummet near turbine sites.

“These aren’t ‘wacko’ people having these experiences,” Tillinghast asserted. “These are ordinary people just like us who find they originally supported wind turbines and then realized they have this monster near them and they can’t stop it.”

“There are better alternatives,” she declared, such as large and small-scale hydro projects, solar installations and, most of all, “energy efficiency” such as LED light bulbs, home weatherization and insulation upgrades that would reduce electricity consumption.