As I read week after week about the continuing debates about cell tower proposals, I can’t help but feel that local communities have their “heads in the sand” when it comes to a much larger future impact to our ridgelines, wind turbines. Few people seem to understand that where proposed cell towers would reach 40 to 60 feet above the trees, modern wind turbines are 350 to as much as 500 tall. Significant land clearing is required for each turbine and permanent access roads capable of handling 100 ton loads and tractor trailers up to 135’ long must be built to accommodate their construction and maintenance. Whereas, relatively small numbers of additional cell towers are likely to be proposed locally, hundreds of turbines must be constructed in order for Massachusetts to achieve its stated goals for producing renewable energy. There is pressure to build wind farms in West County, in particular. The majority of the state’s wind resources exist in the offshore waters where there are plenty of wealthy beachfront homeowners to fight them. The next windiest places are the highest ridges of Berkshire County where there are also plenty of potential opponents and legitimate environmental issues. That leaves the high ridges around here as the most likely places where wind farms will be constructed.
Regardless of how people may feel about the role of wind power vs. conventional sources in satisfying our future energy needs, I do feel that most people would agree that reasonable controls over siting these projects are required. After all, virtually all communities regulate commercial/industrial development to minimize impacts such as noise, bright lights, compatibility with existing land uses etc. Why should wind power developments not be required to adhere to similar standards? Local bylaws are needed. The time to develop them is now. We, in Hawley, have developed a bylaw that will come before the community for a public hearing July 20. Is your planning board considering this issue?
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