December 9, 2004

The threat to the Berkshires

from "The rush to wind power: a threat to the Berkshires' way of life"

by Eleanor Tillinghast

A year from now, the third highest point in Massachusetts will be turbine 16 of the Hoosac wind power plant in the towns of Florida and Monroe. Only Mount Greylock and Saddle Ball will be higher. Seven of the Hoosac turbines will be among the 10 highest points in the state. Eleven will be above 3,000 feet.

Enxco Inc. will build 20 wind turbines, each 340 feet tall, on two of our most visible mountains. It will cut more than 4 miles of new roads (some 35 feet wide) through forest, crossing more than a dozen streams and wetlands. The contours of both ridgelines will be cleared, blasted and filled to accommodate vehicles 135 feet long and weighing 197,000 pounds.

The mountain range is a major migratory route for hawks, golden eagles and bald eagles. As scientists are discovering at similar sites, bats are also vulnerable to injury and death from turbine blades. Protected plant species are on the property. One stream flows into a pond that has wild brook trout.

Hoosac is just the beginning. Wind turbines are planned for Brodie Mountain and proposed for Berlin and Lenox Mountains and the Hoosac range south of Enxco’s project.

The Appalachian Mountain Club recently did a study showing that 65 sites on 96 miles of ridgeline in Massachusetts have sufficient wind for turbines. The sites range from a quarter-mile to eight miles long. Of the 65 sites, 62 are in the Berkshires.

... The mayor of Salem, who threatened to sue to stop the state from requiring new emissions controls in a 'Filthy Five' power plant in his city, has announced his support for renewable energy. ...

We are being asked to sacrifice our wilderness to reduce global warming, pollution, and dependence on foreign oil. These are vital goals that can be achieved much more successfully and at much less cost through proven energy efficiency and conservation programs and enforcement of clean air laws.

One regional environmental group has suggested that electricity savings from efficiency initiatives can be considered a new source of energy, costing less than any alternative supply. As just two examples: Kimberly-Clark Inc. improved its energy efficiency by 11.7 percent and saved enough fuel over three years to provide 700,000 homes with electricity for a year. A day after the Aug. 14, 2003 blackout, the regional grid operator paid 82 businesses in Connecticut to reduce energy consumption and within a 10-hour period saved enough power to supply 89,000 homes.

... Gov. Mitt Romney lobbied the White House against the Cape Wind proposal but supports the multiple wind power plants proposed for the Berkshires. Likewise, the secretary of environmental affairs has demanded full environmental reviews and an overall planning process for all offshore wind facilities but is enabling construction here without adequate assessments of impacts and consequences.