As a Hopkinton town councilor, I voted to reappoint Harvey Buford to the Conservation Commission because of his past hard work and true desire to help implement the goals of the commission in the name of the residents of Hopkinton. Although I do not always agree with some of his ideas, I believe that all residents should be able to present ideas and opinions to the Conservation Commission and the Town Council and that their input should be given serious consideration.
That said, in response to Harvey’s challenge to the members of the Town Council to state our alternative vision to achieve the Conservation Commission’s objectives, I would like to state the following:
To date, under the aegis of this and the previous Town Council there is a total of 80.1mw of approved/allowed solar projects in Hopkinton. This includes 64.27mw on residential properties that have had their zoning changed to commercial special to accommodate solar (a previously unallowed use), 14.4mw of commercial/manufacturing properties, and 1.5mw of farm viability properties. Since Hopkinton uses 99.77mw of energy per day, we have effectively replaced 80% of our energy usage by solar. Per the state’s Office of Energy Resources, Hopkinton’s 80.1mw of solar projects also represents 46.3% of the entire state’s total solar development of 173mw. Embracing this much alternate energy has been controversial and divisive, but Hopkinton has definitely gone “green” in a big way.
I will continue to support additional farmers taking advantage of the farm viability solar ordinance to put solar on and preserve their farms. I will also support future solar projects on properties currently zoned commercial/manufacturing. However at least for now, I think WE HAVE DONE ENOUGH to fulfill our part to make a rapid transition from fossil fuel to green energy so that we should not have to rezone additional residential property for solar projects.
Although Mr. Buford has invested much time and effort in promoting land-based wind power, he has neglected to mention the court findings against land-based wind energy in residential areas. There was significant scientific evidence brought out in court in Massachusetts and seconded by our Hopkinton residents that described how having windmills too close to people 24/7/365 on the Cape made them sick.
Surely Hopkinton does not wish to allow its residents to become sick and be faced with the need to raise taxes to pay for taking down even one windmill. Surely Hopkinton does not want to fight another court battle over alternative energy. I, as a member of the Town Council, do not see the fruitfulness or vision of that.
No one disputes the infrasound-noise and light-flicker effects of windmills. The argument is about how far the effects extend. Until you have more scientific knowledge of how far away the nearest house needs to be so residents don’t get sick, there is no such thing as careful windmill siting. Also the potential town revenue of $7,500 for a 1.5mw windmill is minimal. In my view, we need to hold off on allowing windmills in Hopkinton at this time and that is the way that I voted. At the very least the minimum safe distance issue must be resolved before we can reconsider this choice.
As far as meeting the Conservation Commission’s goals of providing future land trust funding and generating new non-residential tax revenue to the town, I initiated a discussion to encourage commercial property development several months ago at a Town Council meeting. The town actually has an Economic Development Commission that requires five members to become active. To date, there are two members. Anyone interested in joining the commission should contact the town clerk.
In closing, let me reiterate that Hopkinton’s town councils have done their best to manage and appraise the benefits and pitfalls of the green or alternate energy proposals that have deluged our town. Lessons have been learned. Hard lessons.
Since Hopkinton is 80% of the way toward totally replacing its energy usage, my Plan B is for the Council to continue to learn as much as we can about the pros and cons of wind or any other forms of alternate energy proposals that are presented to us before we start making any more decisions affecting our future. Hopkinton and its citizens will have to live with the results of those decisions and they deserve no less than our knowledgeable deliberations.
Sharon Davis is a member of the Hopkinton Town Council.