Windmills blow into the forefront

By Glenn DrohanPrint Story | Email Story
Selectmen in Florida and Monroe have given the go-ahead to a large windmill farm on the Hoosac Mountain Range, but North Adams planners expressed concern Monday about a neighboring project proposed for the same ridgeline. Two members of the Planning Board said they feared windmill projects could spring up all over Berkshire County. “It’s conceivable we could see a whole lot of windmills all around the mountain range in this area. I don’t know if the people want to see that,” said David Babcock, who suggested that a regional meeting on the topic should be called among community leaders. Board member Wayne Wilkinson agreed, saying, “I’m all for renewable energy. I think it’s a wonderful idea. However, it’s a matter of how many is too many.” The board voted unanimously to postpone action until next month on whether to allow Washington State developer Mark D. Smith to build a 164-foot wind-measuring tower on land off West Shaft Road owned by local landlord and businessman Michael A. Deep. Members heeded the advice of Mary Katherine Eade, city administrative officer, in deciding to seek more information. Among the issues to be decided are whether the proposed windmill project, which Smith has said could be as large as the 20 turbines planned by enexco Inc. in Florida and Monroe, would need approval from the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission. Planners are also considering whether to review the application for the wind-measuring tower in conjunction with the entire potential project. Lawyer Thomas Rumbolt, representing Smith, said a windmill project would only be pursued if wind data collected by the tower proved it was feasible. However, Eade pointed out that the Berlin (N.Y.) Zoning Board had cited environmental law in ruling that a measuring tower in that town for a windmill project proposed by Williams College must be considered within the context of the entire project. Smith’s application for the tower also will need a special permit from the city Zoning Board because it would exceed height limits allowed by zoning bylaws. Planners also decided to research actions taken by Florida and Monroe over the past several months regarding the enexco project. Construction on that windmill farm, known as the Hoosac Wind Project, could begin as early as this summer, pending local Conservation Commission reviews and approval from the Massachusetts Highway Department for access roads, among other necessary permits. The Florida Selectmen and Monroe Selectmen each granted special permits for the windmills — 12 in Florida and eight in Monroe — in late January. The Florida decision was filed with Town Clerk Lisa Brown on Feb. 3, and opponents have until Feb. 23 to appeal it. Florida Town Administrator Jana H. Brule said yesterday that town officials believe the project is environmentally sound and will bring in much-needed revenue — a minimum of $100,000 per year in Florida for lease payments alone. “The board finds that, subject to the special conditions set forth below, the Hoosac Wind Project will promote sustainable sources of energy, will be located and constructed to minimize environmental and visual impacts, will preserve local recreational opportunities and will not be offensive or detrimental to the neighborhood,” the Selectmen wrote in their approval for the project, which by law had to be unanimous. Among the conditions stipulated were that the towers be no taller than 340 feet from the ground to the tip of the rotor blades at full vertical extension, that they be painted a neutral, non-reflective color and that all electrical lines except those along the ridgeline from Tilda Hill Road would be buried. The lines along that ridgeline can be strung on wooden poles no more than 43 feet tall. The Selectmen also specified that the windmills should not exceed certain noise levels and must be operated such that they do not throw ice onto neighboring properties during the winter. Wilkinson, in relaying his concerns to the North Adams board, said the region already has 11 windmills in nearby Searsburg, Vt. (with an additional two proposed), along with potential projects in Hancock, Berlin and now North Adams. The reason for such interest is obvious: According to research by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, western Massachusetts, including all of Berkshire County, has the best potential wind for such projects in the state, if not the entire Northeast, right behind Cape Cod. A number of towns there are fighting a proposal for a huge wind farm in the ocean off Nantucket Sound, while others are exploring building smaller “community windmill” projects. The Center for Ecological Technology in Pittsfield plans to host a series of educational forums on windmills, and the first is scheduled for Feb. 25 at Hancock Elementary School. Sally Wright of the University of Massachusetts Renewable Energy Research Lab will be the speaker. A reception will start at 6:30, with the forum following from 7 to 9. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art will also host a forum on wind power, “Wind Salon,” on March 18, to be hosted by Greg Dahlman of WAMC public radio of Albany, N.Y. Given the interest throughout the region, it certainly will not be the last.
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Silver Brewers Win Sandlot Title

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The Silver Brewers captured the 2019 Papa Gino's Sandlot Championship on Sunday, Oct 13, at  Springside Park.
 
The league consists of 13 teams of Little League-aged players from throughout the county.
 
Team members, seen here, include: coach Jack Chevalier, Maxx Ferguson, manager Jason Walker, JJ Walker, Aidan Cohan, James Smith, Erik Adler, Jackson Almeida, Aidan Underdown, Luke Ferguson, Izick Wilkes, Chase Cook, Coach Bob Smith, Kevin Smith, coach Jermaine Sistrunk and coach David Ferguson.
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