LENOX – With nearly perfect harmony, a panel assigned to report on the merits of a proposed municipal wind-turbine installation atop Lenox Mountain has issued its verdict: A near-unanimous rejection of the project on grounds of adverse financial, environmental and health impacts.
Following an informational forum attended by nearly 100 Lenox and Richmond residents on Monday night to air the views of the Wind Energy Research panelists and the public, the Lenox Select Board is likely to vote on Wednesday evening to cast aside, once and for all, the proposal while forging full-speed ahead on a promising solar-panel installation and other forms of alternative energy.
Even panelists who joined the study group last October favoring the project sounded cautionary notes, citing not only destructive impacts on the pristine Yokun Ridge line and potential red ink for the town, but also emerging studies and anecdotal reports on sound-vibration from turbines as well as widespread opposition voiced by concerned residents of the two towns.
The Select Board may consider exploring a possible conservation restriction for the ridge line to avoid any future replay of the turbine saga.
At the Monday night forum held at the packed Town Hall auditorium, a preliminary study by Weston Solutions of Concord, N.H. – the basis for the energy panel’s four-month investigation of the project – came in for harsh criticism by nearly all the panelists.
“The more I’ve learned about this project on this mountain, it’s not a smart choice,” said Joanne Magee, an alternate member who played a key role probing the financial fallout of the proposed installation on the town. But she also decried the visual impact, “unacceptable construction damage and ongoing damage” to the mountain’s watershed, and adverse health effects on up to 100 residents who live a mile or less from the site.
Magee, also speaking on behalf of fellow panelist Eric Vincelette, who was unable to attend the forum, outlined possible scenarios that would result in red ink for the town instead of savings outlined in the Weston feasibility study which she criticized as “potentially misleading and certainly incomplete.”
Offering congratulations to the Select Board, Town Manager Gregory Federspiel and panel moderator Kenneth Fowler for “allowing a much fuller look at the potential implications of this project for the town,” Magee urged the project be put aside with no further study necessary.
Panelist Channing Gibson, now a Select Board candidate, joined in the chorus of plaudits for town leaders who set up the study group. As an opponent of the project from the start, Gibson affirmed that “all of us on this panel want to find new sources of energy for this town – renewable and sustainable. It’s essential that we solve this problem.”
“There are substantial risks to town finances,” he said, pointing to a similar project that has caused Princeton, Mass., to take a major economic hit – a $1.25 million loss over the past two years because of a turbine breakdown. “That’s a massive loss that we could never sustain and would devastate this project,” he warned.
He also cited “simply abominable” pictures detailing the ecological damage caused by a project in Lowell, Vt. “You won’t believe the scar that blasting and excavation leave, deep and wide,” he said.