Clarence Fanto: Wind turbine complaints foreboding
LENOX -- Alternative-energy advocates need to heed ill winds blowing from residents living near several high-profile turbine installations.
Some Floridians in North Berkshire are complaining of headaches and other adverse effects from the recently activated Hoosac Wind Project. On Cape Cod, the Selectmen in Falmouth are debating whether to remove a major turbine project that has aroused the ire of nearby residents because of reported health concerns.
At the same time, a Lenox solar-energy project is under a cloud.
As reported in The Eagle and the North Adams Transcript, town of Florida residents have formally complained to the state about noise levels they say exceed state legal limits as well as health problems they blame on the 19-turbine Hoosac project atop Bakke Mountain and Crum Hill in the adjacent Franklin County town of Monroe.
Several longtime residents complain of headaches and dramatic reductions in quality of life.
"My quiet, peaceful, serene world and home has been turned into a reality of grief, unending noise, annoyance and constant dealing with those in charge to help us," said Michael Fairneny of Florida.
On Cape Cod, the Falmouth Select Board has voted to send a posse to Beacon Hill to seek financial help from the state if the town's two municipal turbines are removed.
Wind-energy advocates and opponents believe that if Falmouth Town Meeting approves the dismantling, wind projects across the nation could suffer setbacks.
Resident Malcolm Donald told the local Enterprise weekly that "it's going to be precedent-setting. The Falmouth experience is known worldwide and it's unfortunate for the wind turbine industry, but Falmouth has become a martyr. It's an embarrassment to the industry."
The estimated cost of removal ranges from $9 million to nearly $12 million. It would likely be the first commercial-sized turbine installation in the country to come down within three years of installation because of noise and health complaints, the Enterprise reported.
At least four other towns in Massachusetts -- Scituate, Plymouth, Kingston and Fairhaven -- are watching closely, since their wind farms have aroused similar complaints.
Although the 10-turbine Berkshire Wind Project along the Brodie Mountain ridge line in Hancock and New Ashford has not triggered citizen complaints in the sparsely populated area -- nor have the nearby Jiminy Peak units -- the town government in Lenox blew away a proposed municipal installation after an appointed citizens' research group produced a critical study citing the potential impact on nearby homeowners.
Lenox Town Meeting voters approved a modest municipal solar panel project last May that has yet to be built because of stalled contract talks between the Boston developer and electric utility companies that would distribute the power to local schools and town-owned buildings.
On a more positive note, the Solarize Mass project enabling property owners to install panels on homes or businesses has produced energy-cost savings in Pittsfield, Lenox and 19 towns statewide. Other cities and towns can apply to the state for participation by next Wednesday.
Wind energy is still expanding nationally, according to the industry's trade group, which lists 45,100 turbines in the U.S., with Texas, California and Iowa as the leading producers, while Massachusetts is 35th in the nation.
But the recent pushback from residents in Florida, Monroe and Falmouth demonstrates that unless the complaints turn out to be a lot of hot air -- an unlikely outcome -- each project has to spin or sputter on its own carefully scrutinized merits.
Clarence Fanto, a regular Eagle contributor, can be reached at email@example.com.
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