(By request, expanding on my SpeakUp! post)

A "similar" Livermore Falls, ME biomass plant

Here’s more on the controversy raging over the proposed Pownal biomass facility about which David previously posted.

Developer Beaverwood Energy describes their proposal (and a similar facility in Fair Haven, VT) here (complete with renderings and Google satellite views — worth looking at the Bing bird’s eye view as well:

The plants will be 29 megawatt, baseload plants. Unlike wind and solar, which provide intermittent power, these facilities run all the time, significantly improving the stability of the power system and reducing the cost for transmission by utilizing the existing power lines rather than creating the need for new transmission lines.

Beaver Wood’s projects will create approximately 50 renewable energy jobs at each facility and produce 100,000 tons of the highest quality pellets for commercial and home use.

The plants will also provide an estimated 1,000 indirect jobs including construction and many for loggers and forestland owners. The projects will use carefully harvested waste wood, helping Vermont nurture it’s forest economy.

Opposition is being led by a group called the Bennington Berkshire Citizens Coalition. From their website:

We are banding together to demand that we are given the respect we deserve as citizens and taxpayers to have a time to complete a full review of the proposal as serious concerns have arisen related to air pollution, water use, public health and safety, traffic, aesthetics, natural environment, and historic preservation as well as the direct impact on abutting residential homes and neighbors, real estate values, and the local agriculture/farming community.

Among their concerns:

  • Burning wood to generate electricity emits carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ash, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds.
  • The facility will need up to 400 gallons of water/minute from the Hoosic River or from an underground aquifer supplying water to the Pownal Water District.
  • It has been estimated by the developer that the biomass facility would require the arrival of 96 trucks per day, back and forth, down Rt 7, Rt 346 and Rt 2.
  • Biomass facilities are notorious for creating noise, light, and smell pollution during operation. In a 24/7 operation as proposed for Pownal, VT, they can be constant and

Williams hosted a panel discussion on biomass energy back on October 28, featuring Professors Hank Art and David Dethier and two industry panelists. Here’s the writeup from iBerkshires.com:

Area residents packed into Griffin Hall at Williams College on Thursday night in hopes of getting some answers to how a biomass plant proposed for Pownal, Vt., would effect the region.

The answer: No one really knows. At least not this early in the permitting process.

Meanwhile, the Record carried an op-ed from Paul Harsch ’69 arguing against the plant:

Do not allow the promoters, lawyers and executives (none of whom will live in the vicinity of this plant) to sell you on a pipe dream of clean air and lots of jobs without first insisting on hard economic data and objective scientific proof from totally independent sources not on the company payroll. The science is there about the negative health effects and the history is there of prior failed economic prosperity and growth.

I wonder if Selim Zilkha ’46, namesake of the College’s Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives, has a different take from his position as co-owner of Zilkha Biomass Energy?

In the most recent development, the Williamstown Selectmen made clear they wish to be heard in the permitting process:

The proposed site in Pownal is approximately one mile from downtown Williamstown, Massachusetts. Whatever occurs in Pownal will be felt in Williamstown, Mass., and vice versa.

Biomass power plants have faced opposition in cities and towns across America, not only in Pownal, including in Florida, TexasOregon, Wisconsin, and Indiana.

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