In Duxbury, wind project’s backers cry foul
Say outsiders are funding opposition
Duxbury advocates for wind power say their town is being targeted by a well-funded lobby seeking to kill wind energy projects throughout the state.
Local opponents of a potential wind power turbine on North Hill are drawing on backing from the deep pockets of Massachusetts Windwise, which provides prewritten material either not applicable to Duxbury or based on bad science, said Jim Savicki, cochairman of Sustainable Duxbury.
“They have hooked into a group that has all sorts of support,’’ Savicki said, after an extensive presentation critical of the town’s wind energy effort wowed a majority of the Board of Selectmen. “The funding has to be coming from somewhere.’’
After the local opposition group Duxbury Wind Wise made its presentation, Duxbury’s selectmen voted to recommend that the town’s Alternative Energy Committee give up a plan to seek local funding to continue its study of the North Hill site.
While the energy committee has not yet made a proposal to build a wind turbine, it had released a feasibility study pointing to the town-owned North Hill property as the most probable site if the town decides to move forward.
That prompted opponents, accompanied by an experienced attorney, to outline for selectmen what they see as the dangers of wind power and the inadequacies of the town’s feasibility study.
“Mass. Windwise is a very well-organized and well-funded group,’’ Alternative Energy Committee chairman Jim Goldenberg said of the presentation on the dangers of wind generation, including images of turbines in flames.
“They have supplied the Duxbury opposition,’’ he said. “They have brought in their resources and arguments and studies. We’ve been hit hard with this fierce opposition. I don’t think it’s homegrown. It’s certainly funded by somebody.’’
Members of Duxbury Wind Wise, however, are paying the bill for attorney Chris Siene to represent them. While Siene acknowledged that some information presented to Duxbury officials was based on out-of-state sources, he said much of it was relevant to Duxbury’s situation.
“We’re not getting it quite right,’’ he said of municipal wind turbines like the one being studied for Duxbury. “We have to figure out how to size them.’’
While the energy committee is still far from recommending that the town build a turbine on North Hill, a site adjacent to the town golf course with relatively few residential neighbors, Goldenberg said it is holding open the option of seeking funds from Town Meeting to continue studying the site.
Using a state grant to explore renewable energy options, the committee’s study concluded that a North Hill turbine would have to be 276 feet tall and produce 900 kilowatts of energy to be cost effective.
The size is modest compared with the 500-foot turbines proposed for other communities south of Boston, but above the 250-foot maximum permitted by the town’s wind power bylaw. It would require an exemption.
In response, Duxbury Wind Wise produced an analysis by Energy Ventures Analysis Inc. of Virginia that criticized the “financial fundamentals’’ of a North Hill turbine, saying it would probably not pay for itself.
The opponents also said a wind turbine would create noise pollution, offered studies alleging health concerns, and told selectmen that the turbines can catch fire, and the blazes cannot be extinguished because of their height.
Savicki, cochairman of a 30-member group that supports renewable energy, said an analysis produced by an out-of-state company only a week after the feasibility study was made public is evidence that the opposition is being masterminded and funded by a national lobby. For example, he said, the report states, “Single turbines in high density areas such as Duxbury are always questionable.’’
“High density?’’ Savicki asked. “Is he referring to Duxbury?’’
Savicki said the report also significantly underestimated the 20-year financial benefit from the turbine and mistakenly claimed the project would require clearing 7 acres instead of the actual 1.5.
Siene, who represents local groups opposing wind projects in a dozen communities statewide, said last week he has used Energy Ventures Analysis in his other cases despite its ties to the fossil fuel industry as the author of the Coalcast report series.
Energy Ventures says Coalcast is “an energy forecasting subscription service covering supply, demand, and price analysis’’ for fossil fuel products.
Siene defended Wind Wise’s assertions that turbines can cause health problems.
“The science has come along,’’ he said. “There are peer-reviewed studies recently that show a real set of symptoms, and these have been reported around the world.’’
Symptoms such as sleep problems are caused by “subaudible’’ sound, Siene said. “The really large blades cause problems.’’
Selectman Ted Flynn said last week he agrees neighbors have reason to be concerned about potential health risks from a turbine.
“It’s yet to be finally determined. But I do think they have valid concerns,’’ Flynn said.
Selectman Shawn Dahlen, who opposed the resolution to recommend that the Alternative Energy Committee give up its plan to seek local funding to continue its study of the North Hill site, said the board’s vote was premature because no proposal to build a wind turbine has been made.
Robert Knox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.