December 11, 2011

If solar works: is wind needed?

By Clarence Fanto, Berkshire Eagle Staff, 10 December 2011

LENOX – One of the factors putting the brakes on a proposed municipal wind-turbine installation on Lenox Mountain is the town’s fast-track progress on a major solar energy project in Lenox Dale.

“If solar is taking care of the town’s electricity needs and resale Š, then how would that impact these [wind turbines]?” asked Eric Vincelette, a member of the town’s Finance Committee, at Thursday night’s meeting of the Wind Energy Research Panel.

“The idea was that the turbines were going to generate a certain amount of electricity that would serve the town, and the rest would be resold,” he said. “But now, with the solar project being kind of full speed, the town won’t be using, if that proceeds, anything from this project, if it were to proceed. So now, it’s all in the resale market.”

As Vincelette, a project supporter, put it, “The questions that arise bring more questions.”

Alternate panelist Jo Anne Magee, an opponent who partnered with Vincelette to research financial issues surrounding the project, said the price of energy resold to National Grid would fluctuate with the marketplace.

Panel moderator Kenneth Fowler said that it’s his understanding that a municipality can’t build more alternative energy sources than it needs for its own electricity requirements.

A key question, Vincelette said, is “are we capped, and does the solar project moving
forward, if that took care of the town’s needs for electricity, does that affect this project’s ability to move forward?”

“We’re shooting in the dark,” said Magee.

Magee joined Vincelette in a call for further investigation to acquire more information from National Grid and from Weston Solutions, the alternative energy firm that prepared a detailed study for the town on the wind turbine proposal.

Discussing environmental impacts in the absence of his partner and project supporter Jamie Callihane, Channing Gibson declared, “I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to the Select Board and saying that wind turbine generators are absolutely a good thing, even out in the middle of nowhere, in terms of reducing carbon dioxide.”

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