A group of residents from Berkshire and Franklin Counties in Western Massachusetts are attending a day-long symposium on wind energy as part of a federally sponsored research project. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…
The eight-hour Western Massachusetts Wind Energy Symposium on the campus of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams is a national study being executed by staff from Macalaster College in St. Paul, Minnesota. The project is coordinated by Roopali Phadke, an Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at Macalaster.
The study , paid for by a grant from the National Science Foundation, brought tweny-four residents of Berkshire and Franklin Counties together to discuss their ideas about wind power. Western Massachusetts is one of 4 areas being studied in the project, along with locations in Wyoming, Michigan, and the North Dakota/Minnesota border. Roopali Phadke says the goal of the project is to learn how individuals in different regions respond to wind power.
The group, which ranged in age from 19 to 78 expressed what they felt were pros and cons of wind power. Some positives 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.
The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission cosponsored the event. Senior Planner Lauren Gaherty says the data from the study will help the Planning Commission help work with communities as a technical advisor for potential wind projects.
Gaherty added that she appreciates the symposium’s method of bringing a chosen cross-section of the local community together. She added at many public forums, the discussion often becomes polarizing.
The general public was not invited to the symposium, though one vocal opponent of wind power, Marshall Rosenthal, stood outside on the sidewalk, dressed as a skeleton while handing out flyers…
Rosenthal’s flyers were printed with warnings against the dangers of what’s known as “wind turbine syndrome” – a reference to the supposed ill-health effects caused by low-frequency vibrations from nearby wind turbines.
As part of the state’s clean energy goals, Governor Deval Patrick has pushed for more development of wind energy in the Green Communities Act. Currently, only 46 MW of electricity are generated by wind turbines in Massachusetts, far short of the 250 MW goal by 2017 and 2000 MW by 2020.