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David Scribner
More than 100 Otis residents packed the Town Hall meeting room Tuesday (Aug. 4) night to approve a $6.4 million bond to install a wind turbine off Algerie Road.

Otis voters overwhelmingly endorse $6.4 million wind power project

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By Wednesday, Aug 5, 2015 News 9

Otis – Within a year, this hill town – population 1,612 — will become the greenest community in the Berkshires, with electricity for its municipal operations and school district supplied by wind power.

Larry Gould, chairman of the Otis Energy Committee, answers questions during the information session.

Larry Gould, chairman of the Otis Energy Committee, answers questions during the information session.

By a convincing 83-12 margin, voters in a packed special town meeting Tuesday (August 4) authorized a $6.4 million, 20-year general obligation bond that will pay for the purchase, design, construction and installation of a 1.7 megawatt wind turbine that is predicted to save the town up to $100,000 annually in electricity costs and pay for itself out of the surplus energy that it provides to regional municipalities and school districts, such as the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative.

“At no time have we planned for town taxpayers to pay for any of this project,” the chairman of the town’s Energy Committee, Larry Gould told the crowded Town Hall meeting room during an information session that preceded the vote. “This bond is for the financing of the wind turbine, which will be paid for by the project itself. The town will use only 5 percent of the output of the turbine, and we can sell and trade the rest to other entities.”

Gould noted that under a federal clean energy program the town had also been approved for a Certified Renewable Energy Bond for the project, with the government providing a $2.3 million subsidy, which includes paying 70 percent of the interest costs over the 20-year term of the bond.

He added that with income from the turbine the town will “zero out our electric bill,” since the town consumes only 5 percent of the kilowatts that will be produced by the wind turbine.

And he pointed out that the town had been besieged with inquiries from other Berkshire towns – Great Barrington, Sandisfield, Monterey, Southwick, among them – about purchasing power from Otis.

“They wanted to buy our power, but they’re not in our network,” he said. “But the Lower Pioneer Valley Collaborative said they’d buy every bit of excess power. If we had ten turbines, they’d buy 10 megawatts.”

Selectmen (left to right) Donald Hawley, Roberta Sarnacki and William Hiller listening to Larry Gould explain the turbine project.

Selectmen (left to right) Donald Hawley, Roberta Sarnacki and William Hiller listening to Larry Gould explain the turbine project.

The 4-year process to develop the plans for an alternative, green energy resource for the town has been supported by at $400,000 grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

While considering alternative energy sources for the town, the Energy Committee rejected a proposal from a Connecticut-based solar energy speculator to build a multi-megawatt solar array forested land.

“The wind turbine is better than mowing down 200 acres of trees for a solar array,” commented Chris Bouchard, former highway superintendent and member of the Energy Committee, in a conversation at the conclusion of the meeting. “The wind turbine has minimal impact to the environment for the same amount of electricity.”

Gould explained that the large, 1.7 megawatt turbine, to be built by General Electric, will be situated on quarry property given the town by Ed Williams, owner of Williams Stone where a smaller turbine was installed and became operational in 2009.

Gould related that the committee had examined three parcels for the turbine, but had determined that the site off Algerie Road, 2,300 feet from the nearest residence, would be most economical because it would required less than 1,000 feet of access road.

Larry Gould responds to questions from town residents.

Larry Gould responds to questions from town residents.

During the information session, Gould also addressed concerns of residents whose property was adjacent to the proposed turbine.

“How tall is it?” asked Barbara Drosnin, whose property is below the ridge where the turbine will be located.

“It’s about 415 feet tall, to the tip of the blade,” Gould responded.

“How many stories is that?” Drosnin continued.

“It’s about 40 stories, if it’s 10 feet per story,” Gould replied. But he assured her that she would not be able to see it.

In answer to questions about whether Eversource Energy, the operator of the grid, could refuse to accept the power from the Otis turbine, Gould replied: “Eversource did an impact study. There is no impact on their lines, and no indication at any level that they can refuse to take the power.”

The impact study also concluded that the noise from the turbine would be at a 35 decibel level at 2,000 feet from the turbine, “under the worst case scenario.”


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9 Comments   Add Comment

  1. GMHeller says:

    BIG MISTAKE!
    Do those who are in favor of bringing wind turbines to Otis understand just how very noisy and intrusive wind turbines really are?
    Not to mention the thousands of birds that will die as a result of flying into the spinning turbine blades.
    Check out the turbine installation to the northeast of Pittsfield; you can see a slew of them midway up the access road to Mt. Greylock from Lanesboro.
    Ask anyone living near wind turbines if they had to do it over again, whether they’d be in favor.
    The low frequency hum coming from the spinning blades drives a lot of people bonkers.
    The annoyance of the constant hum of the turbines is not worth the few bucks allegedly saved in electricity costs.
    Suggest doing a Google search using the search terms Wind Turbine Noise, and Wind Turbine Complaints.
    Read and learn.

  2. Michael Wise says:

    Go Otis! Every day our neighbors give us something to cheer about. Congratulations on taking the initiative to make a sensible choice for your geographic situation. Obviously, public support via a substantial grant for the in-depth study helped a lot, and public subsidy for the financing will help a lot too. No problem with that: that is often needed to get over the hump represented by sunk investments in last-generation technology.

  3. GMHeller says:

    It’s truly laughable how many Massachusetts towns, dominated by Liberal Democrats, have fallen for the hype that wind and solar generated power are somehow panaceas for high electricity rates.
    When Democrat Barack Obama was running for his first term he gave interviews assuring voters that were he elected, his intention upon taking office would be to clamp down on coal-fired electric generation by tightening Clean-Air regulations on power plants, regs that would no longer make it cost-effective for utility companies to operate those plants. At the time, Obama even stated that one obvious result would be that electricity rates would necessarily increase dramatically.
    Now that that Obama’s campaign promise is finally coming to pass across the nation, these Massachusetts towns, which in both elections gave their votes to Obama, are now complaining about sky-rocketing electric rates.
    The solution: wasting even more money on Wind and Solar power generating emplacements which come with a whole slew of their own technical and environmental problems. The upshot is that the total cost to install and operate these high-tech facilities is much, much more than the cost of electricity generated by those nasty coal-fired plants, the one Obama is being successful in squeezing out of existence.
    Massachusetts Liberals can beat their collective breasts about how much they are supposedly doing to help the environment, but take a look at all the damage to the environment imposed by wind turbines: Maddening noise pollution, lots of dead wildlife.
    Elections have consequences.

  4. Michael Wise says:

    Viewed from up close it’s hard to see partisanship or ideology in Otis’s decision. This town that just voted by 8 to 1 to invest in renewable energy is the only town in Berkshire County where the Democratic candidate for governor did not get a majority of the votes last fall.

  5. Marie Jane says:

    No matter your opinion about the industrial wind turbine, it is important to support House Bill 2032. HB.2032 presented by Representative Sarah Peake and supported by 10 Senators and Representatives from across the
    Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a safeguard Bill. It is a petition providing for an investigation and study by a special Commission to study the health impacts from wind turbines and to protect the health of the citizens of the Commonwealth. The Commission will include physicians, a scientist, an epidemiologist, Board of health members, and persons who have registered complaints (noise and health) over the years attributed to improperly placed industrial wind turbines. It is impossible to establish a single standard for the installation of industrial wind turbines because of the variables and inconsistencies from location to location and manufacturer to manufacturer. What works in one geographical location may not work in another. Recommended but not far enough away for some is 1.25 miles. Given the health and noise issues presently being experienced, without resolution, in Kingston, Falmouth, from the Hoosac project, to name a few, everyone would certainly agree that it is best to know exactly what the health impacts are and what the solutions are before the installation of any industrial wind turbine. After installation is too late. Support HB.2032 because it is good for everyone no matter your opinion of the industrial wind turbine.

  6. Marie Jane says:

    August 8, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    No matter your opinion about the industrial wind turbine, it is important to support House Bill 2032. HB.2032 presented by Representative Sarah Peake and supported by 10 Senators and Representatives from across the
    Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a safeguard Bill. It is a petition providing for an investigation and study by a special Commission to study the health impacts from wind turbines and to protect the health of the citizens of the Commonwealth. The Commission will include physicians, a scientist, an epidemiologist, Board of health members, and persons who have registered complaints (noise and health) over the years attributed to improperly placed industrial wind turbines. It is impossible to establish a single standard for the installation of industrial wind turbines because of the variables and inconsistencies from location to location and manufacturer to manufacturer. What works in one geographical location may not work in another. Recommended but not far enough away for some is 1.25 miles. Given the health and noise issues presently being experienced, without resolution, in Kingston, Falmouth, from the Hoosac project, to name a few, everyone would certainly agree that it is best to know exactly what the health impacts are and what the solutions are before the installation of any industrial wind turbine. After installation is too late. Support HB.2032 because it is good for everyone no matter your opinion of the industrial wind turbine.

  7. David Lober says:

    We came up today, October 12, 2017 to begin closing our Big Pond cottage. I was shocked to see, looming over the pristine, brilliant colored tree line, a massive white wind turbine. I can’t believe that I will have to look at this for the rest of my life. What will this do to my resale value? Will the the Town significantly lower my taxes? Is 95 voters out of 1600 even a quorum? And how was this Town Meeting advertised? I received no notice. Outrageous!

  8. Tom Fosdick says:

    Come on, people. It is not hard to locate these turbines someplace that won’t detract from enjoyment of natural beauty, and still be near enough the town to supply power. Certainly, consideration must be given all neighbors when local decisions are being made. Projects like a wind turbine take a fair amount of time to scratch up bond support and vetted engineering companies to actually build them. So everyone who owns property anywhere near a proposed site must be given written notice of the proposal and of the town meeting considering it.
    Keep at it, town meetings. These are the way decisions need to be made to take our country back.

    Best regards, Tom Fosdick

  9. dennis irvine says:

    The Answer, my friends … is not blowin’ in the wind:
    https://stopthesethings.com/2016/11/17/wind-power-economically-socially-environmentally-unsustainable/
    We cannot continue business as usual(BAU)- you cannot have a growth based economy on a finite planet. All these techno-fixes, ultimately, rely on the petroleum infrastructure for their manufacture, maintenance and replacement. Have a warm and happy holiday and may there be coal in your stocking. Community is the only genuinely renewable resource.

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