Berkshire residents air concerns over commercial wind farms


PITTSFIELD -- Gov. Deval L. Patrick can't be trusted to protect Western Massachusetts from unwanted, harmful commercial wind farms threatening the health and beauty of the region.

Dozens of Berkshire-area residents delivered that message Monday evening to state energy regulators gathering public input at Berkshire Community College on the best practices for siting land-based wind turbine projects across the commonwealth.

Later this spring, the state Department of Public Utilities plans to draft guidelines that won't supersede existing local and state siting regulations, according to DPU officials.

"The department is not developing enforceable measures, but a guide to assist permitting authorities," said James Buckley, attorney for the DPU Siting Division

However, the majority of the nearly 100 people attending the public hearing didn't believe Buckley's statement, claiming the pending guidelines are a ruse to resurrect the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act (WESRA) rejected by the state Legislature.

"The Patrick administration has earned our mistrust and fear," said Eleanor Tillinghast of Green Berkshires. "The governor has used one tactic or another to push wind energy in our communities."

"[WESRA] is zombie legislation that keeps stalking our communities," added Cynthia Wick of Lenox.

Opponents to commercial wind energy facilities during the well over three-hour public hearing cited how the state and wind farm developers have ignored the environmental, economic and health impact of wind turbines. The most compelling testimony came from several people who live near the Hoosac Wind project in the town of Florida. The 19 turbines went on line in December 2012, and a month later town residents Nancy Shea and her husband Tim Danyliw moved out of their home.

Shea says they could no longer handle the noise and ill feeling, living 2,200 feet away from the closest turbine.

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"It felt like the room was spinning," she said. "It sounds like a jet engine over the house that doesn't go away."

Another neighbor to Hoosac Wind, Michael Fairneny, also feels the project has robbed his quality of life in the rural community.

"My happiness was taken away from my own home," he said. "It's like living next to an airport an [the planes] never land."

In Peru, where a proposed wind energy project has polarized the town, some residents fear they will have a Hoosac Wind of their own.

"We care deeply about our property values, health and natural beauty," said Bonnie DiTomasso.

Wind farm detractors also say the alternative energy source won't impact the state's plan to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

In 2009, the Patrick administration called for 2,000 megawatts of wind capacity by 2020, 25 percent produced by onshore wind turbines. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 3.1 million tons from electricity produced by oil and natural gas.

Several speakers cited how wind energy has failed to meet the energy needs of Germany, Spain, parts of Canada, producing electricity well below projections.

Wind power just isn't worth the hassle, according to Ellen Landauer of nearby Charlemont in Franklin County.

"Decommission all the wind turbines in the state, take them down and ban them forever," she said.


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