PITTSFIELD – Regional planners are hoping Berkshire residents’ board game skills can lead to a viable county-wide energy plan.
This week the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission will host a pair of public meetings titled “Energy and Climate: An Interactive Community Workshop.”
Tuesday’s gathering is at Lenox Town Hall; Wednesday’s is at MCLA’s Center Social Hall in North Adams. Both workshops run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
BRPC officials say workshop participants will break up into small groups, each with a Berkshire map and game pieces representing solar arrays, wind turbines and energy efficiency.
The groups must determine where best to place on the map as many game pieces as possible to indicate where the county can reduce its dependency on fossil fuels.
The public input is intended to shape a long-range energy proposal from the BRPC and Center for Eco-Technology (CET) based in Pittsfield.
The collaborative effort, expected to produce a final plan in May, is part of the BRPC’s development of an overall “Sustainable Berkshires” master plan. The document, due in early 2014, also will look at enhancing economic development, housing, recreation and other quality-of-life areas.
The energy workshops serve a dual purpose, according to Melissa Provencher, a BRPC senior planner.
“The exercise partly benefits us, partly benefits the participants as it gets them to
stretch their brains about sustainable energy,” she said.
Nancy Nylen, CET’s associate director, believes the game play can lead to some hard data for long-range energy planning in the Berkshires.
“This is an opportunity to produce real numbers and show how much savings we can achieve from these solutions,” Nylen said.
The BRPC and CET also hope workshop attendees approach solar, wind and other alternative energy resources with an open mind. While household and commercial solar projects are becoming more commonplace in the Berkshires, regional and environmental planners say local controversy keeps swirling around wind turbines.
Earlier this month, town of Florida residents living near the Hoosac Wind Project filed formal complaints claiming the commercial turbines exceeded state noise limits. In addition, potential municipal wind projects in Lee and Lenox have met some turbulence from townspeople.
Given Massachusetts needs to meet a 20 percent reduction of all carbon emissions by 2020, energy efficiency alone won’t help the state meet its goal, according Amy Kacala, a BRPC senior planner.
“We could weatherize every house in the Berkshires and still not reach 20 percent,” Kacala said.
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