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Berkshire Symposium captures local dissent as well as wind promoters

July 27, 2012

According to iBerkshires reporter John Durkan, the gathering held at Mass. College of Liberal Arts in North Adams on July 26, 2012 was a chance to bring together proponents and dissenters for a discussion of wind energy attitudes for Franklin and Berkshire Counties (“Symposium Surveys Local Attitudes On Wind Power”).

Despite the volume of concerns, when polled, a total of 26 percent of the group polled said they would support a wind turbine in their town, while 41 percent were opposed and 33 percent answered neither.

The forum was conducted by Assoc. Professor Roopali Phadke from Macalester College (St. Paul, MN) under a grant funded by the NSF to research the visual impacts of wind power.

Lucas Willard, reported on WAMC radio  that the 24 residents invited to participate ranged in age from 19 to 78.

Some positive impacts expressed were increased tax revenue for a community, reduction of dependence on fossil fuels and reduction in air pollution. Cons identified were worries about health impacts, effects on the Berkshire tourism economy, cost, decrease in property values, environmental concerns, and loss of land control.

Cosponsoring the event was the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, which hopes to use symposium data in its work as a technical advisor for potential wind projects.

The Concensus Building Institute also liked the mix of participants, according to the article in the North Adams Transcript by Phil Demers. CBI’s Stacy Smith worked on the NSF grant; she was brought in to Falmouth by the MassCEC to act as mediator.
The Franklin Regional Council of Governments was another cosponsor reported Diane Broncaccio in the Greenfield Recorder (“WHY THE RESISTANCE TO WIND?  Study seeks insight into area attitudes Northeast states have fewer facilities, more anti-wind groups”).

Several (participants) said they have already lived “off the grid.” When asked to name an advantage of wind power, participants listed turbines as a chance to break away from fossil-fuel dependence, to help farmers increase productivity, to increase income and to provide “smallscale self-sufficiency. Others said they thought the economic benefits would all go to the developers, while the public would pay for the infrastructure. Health issues were a big concern for some, while others said the issue “will take us away from pursuing good energy policy” that should include using energy more wisely and improving energy efficiency.

Phadke, the convener, is quoted as saying “We try not to call them ‘NIMBY’ (not in my backyard) or ‘anti-wind,’ but more groups are in areas that have less wind energy — or no wind energy — installations.”
Results of the day’s poll:
Do you support industrial wind turbines in Franklin and Berkshire Counties?
Yes 14.71% (5 votes)
No 82.35% (28 votes)
Other 2.94% (1 votes)
Total Votes: 34
5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 27, 2012 5:48 pm

    After 2 1/2 years of (trying and now giving up) living too near (1558 and 1662 feet) from the Falmouth,Mass. 1.65Mwatt turbines and that period of studying the pros and cons of wind power, I have come to a conclusion that they are a political and wind industry scheme. It is highly debatable that a million of them would have even a minuscule impact on climate change. For that “only possibly” minute effect the cost would be enormous. Wind turbines are not going to save the world or prevent our sea levels from rising.
    There is NO scientific or economic evidence that shows wind turbines do anything but drive our government deficits deeper and deeper. NOONE WOULD BUILD AN INDUSTRIAL WIND TURBINE WITHOUT GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES, THE NET METERING LAW, THE GREEN COMMUNITIES ACT, AND THE REQUIREMENT THAT OUR ELECTRIC UTILITIES COMPANIES PURCHASE A CERTAIN PERCENTAGE OF THEIR POWER FROM RENEWABLE SOURCES. The whole wind power sham revolves around and is made possible by the politicalization of science. Do you know how much so-called renewable energy programs are costing you on your monthly electric bill? Perhaps it is time to find out. If there is a glut of natural gas with the price going lower and lower, how
    economical is it that Cape Wind is proposing an initial 18.9 cents/unit with a built in 3% annual price increase? Natural gas is super clean compared to the coal plants that countries like China are building at an incredible rate. If it is necessary to calm your environmental conscious, why not replace our coal fired plants with natural gas? My personal choice for the most renewable resource of all would be nuclear. After recycling the waste a number of times it could be sent off to orbit the universe. Is it not more ethical to save a hundred million starving children than to pour our resources down the drain?
    Study all you can about the realities of wind power. That is what the current population needs to do to effect a sea change on our politicians.

  2. Preston McClanahan permalink
    July 27, 2012 4:08 pm

    Anyone who now believes in power from wind in face of all the evidence to the contrary is either uninformed, expecting streets paved in gold, recieving payola, or expecting a step up in their political career, or any combination of these reasons. Pro wind is not pro power.

  3. July 27, 2012 11:40 am

    The argument I hear is that these units are unhealthy and create enormous tax breaks for these corporations. So, keep them away from areas where they can harm humans and extract pounds of flesh from the corporations to reduce electricity rates for residents and to fund services and activities in the towns where they reside. Tax them accordingly as power plants. If they are going to use these units as a write off let them write it off to the benefit of the towns.

  4. Chris Kapsambelis permalink
    July 27, 2012 11:11 am

    Several recent studies of actual data from power grids with significant wind energy penetration have confirmed that little to no fossil fuel is saved.

    The failed efforts have been at the direction and support of state and federal officials. Currently, both our Senators are in support of the PTC subsidy for wind energy, and the Massachusetts Green communities Act mandates the purchase of fruitless renewable energy at more than 4 times the going rate. Some people call this “Crony Capitalism”.

    Until fruitful and economic alternative energy is available, electric cars are really powered by fossil fuel. Continuing the present effort is counter-productive and is an impediment to real solutions.

    According to these experts on the power grid, wind energy fails to measure up as a power source. It is not a substitute for fossil fuel, and does not deliver fuel savings and CO2 reduction.

    Click to access SvsE.pdf e.html

    Click to access degroot-fuel-consumption.pdf

    And that is why people like Microsoft’s Bill Gates have switched to supporting grid scale energy storage.

    To turn wind energy and all other intermittent energy sources into useful power supplies capable of delivering on the promise of renewable, clean, alternative energy, you need a miracle development in battery technology. Until then all the subsidies and state mandates not only are a waste of money, but they actually serve to retard any real solutions.

  5. July 27, 2012 10:46 am

    Phadke by introducing NIMBY as a question has cleverly just labeled all industrikal win d concerns as NIMBY response… far far freom reality ..Richard Todd from Ashfield puts it well Confessions of a Nimby
    Or Why It’s Ok to Fight for Your Town

    I have come late to the discussion about wind turbines in town (was out of action for the first part of last year owing to illness) and I’ve been trying to catch up. There is much to learn. What I have learned so far (is?) tends to be alarming. At 400 feet the turbines would dwarf their surroundings, as the photo composites that have widely circulated demonstrate. In these composites the turbines look as if they might have descended from space—but the reality (as I was slow to envision) is worse: it would take a considerable construction project to put the turbines in place, roads and clearings that would scar the hills. Although the turbines would stand high as 40 story buildings, with lights atop them warning off small planes at night, they are not buildings, they are machines. Machines make noise. Apparently the internal workings of the turbines are not so troublesome as the beat of the huge blades. The level of the noise, its effects on health and sleep, will be the subject of a lot of technical debate. For the moment, I sometimes wake up at night, listening only to the sound an old house makes in the cold, and imagine what it would be like to have a turbine nearby: thwop, thwop, thwop through the night.
    One thing about the debate so far has struck me as quite remarkable. Few, if any, people think that the wind turbines would be beneficial to the town. Most agree that their local effect would be harmful in varying degrees from merely annoying to devastating. And yet many seem to think that it is nonetheless our duty to allow them to be built.
    . At (s) it is sometimes put, the argument candidly seems less about solving global problems than about somehow expressing and expiating guilt. Proponents of industrial wind would concede that our own contribution could be hardly more than symbolic, but that we are nonetheless morally obligated to make it. It has been suggested, for instance, that because West Virginia hilltops have been ravaged by the coal industry it is only fair that we should open ours to the wind industry. This does not seem to me to stand up to logic, but I know that there are many serious minded people who sincerely feel that it is selfish of us not to offer ourselves up to the industrial wind energy industry despite cost to our own surroundings.
    I am perplexed by their reasoning. Perhaps it is high-minded in a way that I am incapable of being. On the other hand, it proceeds with a certitude that I find unjustified and even dangerous. In the interest of an uncertain good—“clean energy”–it is ready to sacrifice some very real, present and tangible goods. “Our hands are dirty” someone said a recent meeting, and asked why given our complicity in a polluting society we had the right to live in a “bucolic village..” I ask what gives us the right to destroy that village?
    To think as I do, of course opens one to the charge of being that much loathed figure, the Nimby. I would protest that I don’t favor putting wind turbines in anyone’s backyard, near or far—but that is another discussion. The immediate point is that our backyard is well worth defending. To begin with, it is not just our backyard; it is a place whose value transcends its worth to us, a resource for the whole of the state and the region. The hills of western Massachusetts shelter a culture worth protecting. We are inheritors of generations of stewardship of the land.. We live in one of those increasingly rare places where the human presence has not destroyed but has, for the most part, enhanced the environment. Our society needs this model far more than it needs more kilowatts, however “cleanly” they are generated. If we are thinking of our responsibility to the world I suggest that we can enact it best by tending first to our own corner of the world. We delude ourselves in thinking that we can do anything very significant toward ‘saving the planet.” But we can at least save something of the planet by respecting the place where we live.
    Is this selfish? Of course there is self-interest in opposition to industrial wind. . But I do think “self-interest”, not selfishness is the correct term. It doesn’t seem to me selfish to want to protect the value of property that, for most of us, represents the material expression of a life’s work. Nor is it selfish to want to avoid years of litigation that the town would almost certainly face over damages caused by turbines. It doesn’t seem selfish to want our few retail businesses to prosper (and they would surely lose all their appeal to visitors if they were located in what would be in effect an industrial setting.)
    None of us is immune to selfishness. But by virtue of where we live we are mostly innocent here of the great systemic selfishness that infects much of our country. To see that sort of selfishness, one need look no further than the business interests that would bring industrial wind to the town. I don’t know the representatives of the companies involved–perhaps they are fine fellows, and in any case they are just representatives. But when I think of the enterprise of which they are a part, I wonder at the greed and arrogance that allows anyone to wish upon someone else’s town environmental damage that would transform it forever. And I think about the hypocrisy that allows someone to do this in the name of saving the environment!
    Many years ago, when we were living in a third-floor walkup in Cambridge, my wife and I would come out to Ashfield to visit a friend. I remember how much the town and the region of which it was a part, meant to me, though I had no economic stake in it, only a faint hope of living here someday. I thought of it as unchanging—of course it was not that, but it had a long history of graceful accommodation to change, which is even better. I did not begrudge those who lived here what they had—on the contrary, I was grateful to them for living as they did. I think others will be grateful to us for refusing to surrender this place to forces that would damage it irreparably.

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