A 19-turbine industrial wind farm is near completion in the Northern Berkshires, but according to nearby residents, some uncertainties about the project’s impact on the environment and health remain. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…
The Hoosac Wind Project, also known as the Bakke Mountain Wind Farm, could see all 19 standing wind turbines erected by the end of this week, according to spokesman from owner Iberdrola Renewables, Paul Copleman.
The 28.5 mega-watt project is being constructed on two ridges in the neighboring towns of Florida and Monroe. Crum Hill, one of the locations, is the highest peak in the Berkshire Hills. The other location, Bakke Mountain, is located in the adjacent Taconic Range.
The Hoosac Wind Project was finally permitted after a 7-year process, which began in 2003 and ended in 2010. In 2004, when Iberdrola Renewables sought a wetlands permit on the proposed location for the wind farm, local and statewide citizen groups challenged the state-issued wetland permit on violation of the Wetlands Protection Act. Eleanor Tillinghast, Executive Director of Green Berkshires, an environmental advocacy group that worked with the challengers, explains…
Governor Deval Patrick then used his right to ignore the magistrate’s recommendation. Eleanor Tillinghast said the citizen groups filed an appeal.
Iberdrola won the case and eventually began construction on access roads and other aspects of the project in 2011.
Mike Fairneny is a concerned resident who lives on the Eastern slope of Crum Hill in Florida, and what he says about a “10 minute walk” to the nearest turbine of the wind farm. He’s worried about the impact of the project on the property value of his home and the possibility of what’s been called “wind turbine syndrome” – a name first penned by Dr. Nina Pierpont referring to the effects on human health caused by the low frequency vibrations from the spinning turbines, which could include headaches, nausea, vertigo, and depression.
Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection released a report showing that the Wind One industrial turbine in the Cape Cod town of Falmouth produces noise louder than the state allows. The state then recommended a shut-off of the wind turbine which was located near a residential area. Also this year, the DE commissioned an independent scientific panel to study the impact of windturbines on human health. The panel said that there was insufficient evidence to claim close proximity to wind turbines caused health problems. The DEP heard comments from the public across the state on this issue.
Paul Copleman, spokesman for Iberdrola, says that the company is dedicated to working with the public on any issues going forward.
According to Iberdrola, the 19 1.5MW turbines will produce enough energy to 6,000 homes in Massachusetts each year. Paul Copleman also mentioned the combined financial benefit to Florida and Monroe.
Governor Deval Patrick has set a goal of 2000 MW of wind power to be produced in Massachusetts by 2020.