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Lenox community workshop addresses sustainable energy options

LENOX – What is the trend in energy usage in Berkshire County, and what can we do to increase energy efficiency and expand clean energy projects like wind and solar?

These were some of the questions addressed in a recent Energy and Climate Interactive Community Workshop presented by members of the Sustainable Berkshires Planning Board.

The workshop, held on Feb. 26 at Lenox Town Hall, included an interactive slideshow presentation followed by a small-group breakout session in which participants placed their preferences for renewable energy projects on a map of the county.

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) has been working on Sustainable Berkshires, a long-range sustainability plan for the county, for the past two years. The plan will guide initiatives and investments in The Berkshires across 11 broad topic areas, such as energy, transportation, housing and neighborhoods, business and economy, and municipal and regional services.

The plan’s final recommendations will be based on community input gathered through interactive workshops and discussions. The energy and climate workshop was the latest interactive community forum designed to gauge public awareness and opinion on the county’s current energy use and future energy development.

“We want to get a sense of what [energy] portfolio you want to see in the county,” BRPC Senior Planner and Sustainable Berkshires Project Manager Amy Kacala told workshop participants.

Renewable energy currently comprises nine percent of total energy generation in Berkshire County, with most of that clean energy (100 million kWh/year) coming from wind power. Solar energy is the county’s second largest renewable source, generating 10 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year.

Expanding renewable energy in The Berkshires will bring the county closer to its emissions reduction goal of cutting CO2 levels 25 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2020, a goal that also applies to the state as a whole.

Yet not all renewable energy options are viewed favorably among community members. Wind is particularly controversial.

“There are a lot of environmentalists who have issues with commercial-scale wind turbines,” explained workshop participant Jake Laughner of North Adams.

“It seems to me what we ought to be doing first is maxing out our energy conservation potential,” he continued. “After that, we should be installing as much benign energy technology as possible, like PV solar. Only as a last resort should you fall back on things that are more environmentally destructive like commercial-scale wind.”

Workshop participants overall seemed to agree with Mr. Laughner, as reflected by the small groups’ energy preferences shared during the final portion of the workshop.

During the breakout session, each group (four to six people) was presented with a map of Berkshire County and a “bank” of small square tokens representing energy efficiency, PV solar arrays and wind turbines of various sizes.

The goal of the game was to determine an appropriate mix of these energy options (by placing their tokens on the map) that would meet the CO2 reduction target. The groups, overall, had similar strategies in emphasizing energy efficiency first, followed by solar, with little emphasis on wind.

“Siting of renewables, particularly wind, is a challenge, which you saw emerge tonight,” remarked Wendy Penner of the Center for EcoTechnology (CET), one of the regional consortium members involved in the Sustainable Berkshires planning process.

“People are very optimistic about how much we can do with energy efficiency,” added CET Associate Director Nancy Nylen. “But I think it was great to have people thinking about our options and what we can be doing.”

Berkshire Regional Planning Commission’s final report outlining the Sustainable Berkshires plan is due to be released in May.

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Posted by on March 7, 2013. Filed under Community News,News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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