LENOX – Dead on arrival. That’s the likely fate of the long-debated municipal wind turbine proposal following an informational forum attended by nearly 100 Lenox and Richmond residents.
The Select Board is set to vote thisevening to cast the project aside and may even consider a conservation restriction to protect the Lenox Mountain ridge line forever.
Members of the Wind Energy Study Panel, presenting their final thoughts in the packed Town Hall auditorium on Monday night, advocated putting the kibosh on the project.
Instead, a consensus emerged to move ahead at full throttle on a solar panel project proposed for the town’s old landfill and on land near the wastewater treatment plant, both in Lenox Dale.
During the forum, a preliminary report by Weston Solutions of Concord, N.H. – the basis for the panel’s four-month investigation – came in for harsh criticism.
Study group member Joanne Magee decried the visual impact, “unacceptable construction and ongoing damage” to the mountain’s watershed, and potentially adverse health effects on up to 100 residents living within about a mile of the site.
Magee, also speaking on behalf of fellow panelist Eric Vincelette, who was unable to attend the forum, warned that the project could yield cascades of 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 that the project be put aside with no further study necessary.
Joining the chorus of plaudits for town leaders who created the study group and chose its members, panelist Channing Gibson said: “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,” Gibson said, pointing to a similar project that has caused the town of Princeton to suffer 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 said.
Gibson also cited “simply abominable” photos depicting 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.
He criticized the Weston study for “faulty research” on available wind speeds. “It’s a total failure, irresponsible and it should be junked. Š Had they done their job, we wouldn’t be here tonight, probably, because we would see it’s not feasible, economically.”
Warren Archey, retired chief of the state’s Bureau of Forestry and an original panelist sidelined by illness, touted the town’s “relatively pristine watershed” and blasted the size of the proposed turbine installation as “absolutely monstrous.”
Report deemed inadequate
Dr. Michael Kaplan, a wind-power advocate assigned to examine the project’s health impact, critiqued the Weston report as “inadequate” and acknowledged that there is “not enough information” to move ahead, especially considering widespread community opposition.
Panelist Jamie Cahillane, an alternative-energy supporter, acknowledged feeling “very conflicted on this issue.”
“My recommendation is not to pursue it at this time, not take it off the table forever but look at some other technologies that are being developed that would be less impactful and hopefully more efficient,” Cahillane said.
Declaring the ridge line “a precious site,” study group member Jim Harwood suggested “backburnering the proposal.”
“There may be a time when it’s more compelling. Let’s focus on other options for local renewable energy – solar, co-generation biomass and hydro power,” Harwood said.
Following the personal statements by study group members, the assembled crowd offered a sustained round of applause for the panel.
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