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Lenox Wind panel halts meetings

LENOX – The town’s Wind Energy Research Panel has suspended temporarily its weekly meetings to prepare a final report on the proposed municipal wind-turbine project on Lenox Mountain.

The committee has asked the Select Board for a one-month extension of its original Jan. 15 deadlne for a report.

At least two dozen residents, mostly from Lenox and Richmond, attended last week’s meeting and several made impassioned pleas to derail the project.

“There are so many uncertanties that cannot be resolved with regard to ecology, health issues, destruction of the mountain and financial issues” in the time remaining for the panel’s discussions, said Neal H. Pilson, a part-time Richmond resident and former president of CBS Sports.

“It seems to me that this committee can only report that it’s impossible to recommend that the town go forward with wind turbines,” he said.

Ed Carter, a 40-year Lenox resident and an IBM engineer, questioned the project’s viability from a business standpoint. He cited all the concerns raised by the committee as “show-stoppers.”

“It’s a no-go situation if you analyze it from a lot of different angles,” he said.

Carter contended that cutting-edge, alternative-energy solutions are outpacing the need for wind turbines.

“This is not the technology that the smart people on Wall Street think will be used to generate energy as we go forward,” he
added, citing what he described as plunging stock prices for wind turbine companies.

Richmond resident John Whitney described potential threats to the underground spring supplying “absolutely pristine” water to 19 homes on View Drive posed by blasting during construction of wind turbines.

Terry Flynn of Stockbridge warned of a “massive impact on the whole county” if other towns consider and approve wind turbine projects.

“Every town would contribute to a momentum that would be devastating to the Berkshires and would create great damage to the mountains,” he said.

Prior to the public discussion, members of the panel explored how to sum up their findings.

“We’ve come a long way toward the middle since the beginning,” said panelist Channing Gibson, a project opponent. He noted that the committee had been set up “in an adversarial way.”

As part of the final report, members could write a one-page summary of their own conclusions, suggested Christopher Magee, the MIT engineer and project opponent who was attending his final meeting because of an overseas work assignment.

Magee outlined his objections to the Weston Solutions report commissioned by the town which found the Lenox Mountain site “viable” for wind energy but also recommended further studies.

He challenged the technical credentials of the study’s unidentified authors.

“I really don’t think much of that report, it’s very misleading,” Magee asserted. Magee listed the company’s lack of data on wind turbine gearbox failures as undermining the report’s credibility.

The panel’s final report may also include team summaries of the major issues identified as potential stumbling blocks or as assets for the project.

Those include financial benefits and energy-cost savings for the town, if any, health concerns stemming from potential low-frequency vibration from the turbines, environmental impact on the mountaintop and the required access road, and the effects on the project of solar panel installations that the town is pursuing.

The panel is divided into three supporters and three critics, with an alternate to fill in on each side as needed.

The committee is scheduled to resume its deliberations on Thursday, Jan. 19, at 6 p.m. with one or two meetings to follow.