SHELBURNE – Shelburne’s newly formed wind advisory committee (WAC)met for the first time jointly with the Planning Board at Memorial Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 9. After 45 minutes of discussion, Planning Board Vice-Chair Beth Simmonds made an approved motion for “the WAC to research and bring to the Planning Board information, from towns that currently have turbines in operation, that identifies specifics on size, height, noise, setback and any other physical characteristics” and then to comment on any field concerns with residents or town and state officials.
The motion on WAC’s scope of work was based on a concern from WAC member Robert Jaros that the latest wind bylaw draft from Westfield-based consulting engineer and environmental specialist firm Tighe & Bond Project Manager Briony Angus shifts the focus from “premises-use wind” to “small wind.” But the “premises-use wind” bylaw approved at special town meeting last May 1 referred to wind systems that use a majority of power generated for a business and/or residence without giving any limits on power, height or other criteria.
“We don’t have anywhere that studied premises-use wind, so we are using small wind as a jumping off point,” said Simmonds. “We did not have Briony to come up with the science behind it, but to pull together bylaw drafts that this committee would work with.”
WAC member Mike Parry noted the draft contained “a lot of wordsmithing, but there are bigger things than dotting Is and crossing Ts.”
Unsure if there would be much for sound from a 160-foot-tall wind turbine a quarter mile away, but estimating there would be significant flicker, Parry felt Angus lifted language from bylaws made before health concerns were addressed.
WAC Clerk member Ray Hartman summed up the committee’s concerns as “operational issues,” such as power, height and number of turbines; “neighbor intrusion,” including setbacks and health impacts and “procedural issues;” namely the role ofthe Special Permitting Granting Authority (SPGA). During their Dec. 12 meeting, the Planning Board decided to assume the SPGA role. Hartman said “it would be wise” to have the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals and selectmen review wind ‘power proposals.
Jaros came up with the idea of charting electricity usage of Shelburne businesses and residences to determine what the upper limit for power output should be. WAC member Tom Webler said that the state may consider a business or residence an electricity generator if a wind, solar or other power system yields more than 10 kilowatts, making it more difficult to “store” electricity on the grid. Planning board member.and WAC liaison John Wheeler suggested WAC look at Berkshire Photovoltaics in Adams, who set up Wheeler’s 10-kilowatt solar array that takes care of all of Wheel-View Farm’s electrical needs “and some for the house.”
Simmonds did not give WAC members a timetable to complete their scope of work. She said the Planning Board could ask for an extension on the wind moratorium if they cannot present something to the town for the upcoming May annual town meeting. Simmonds added that the moratorium can be extended up to a maximum duration of three years, because any longer would be “circumspect.”
The WAC voted for Kevin Parsons to chair, Judi Truesdell to serve as vice-chair, and Hartman as clerk. Other members include Jaros, Parry, Webler, Wheeler as liaison to the Planning Board, and Lowell Laporte as liaison to the Zoning Board of Appeals. A ninth member, Eugene Butler, was not present.
The WAC held its first regular meeting at the Shelburne Falls branch of Greenfield Co-operative Bank Tuesday, Jan. 22. The Planning Board’s next regular meeting is at Memorial Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.
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