Nov. 14, 2011 meeting

Attending:  Neil Anders, Donna Caisse, Aimee Hanson, Steve and Janice Kurkoski, Susan Pepper, Cathy Stanton, Joe Zorzin


  • The Athol Agricultural Commission has been officially established and has started meeting.  There are plans to start a farmers market in Athol, among other activities.
  • Bruce’s Browser will be showing the film Gasland on Friday, Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m.

Proposed PV Projects in North Quabbin:  Joe Zorzin and Susan Pepper visited to talk about their concerns over the Memory Lane solar farm project in Orange.  We discussed the issues they raised and continued our discussions about the draft NQE statement on solar farms.  There was consensus that the statement should go out with just some minor additions and editing.  It includes a general statement of support for solar farms with some caveats and recommendations.  The group felt that we should think about ways to go beyond just stating those reservations, and so we will work on getting hold of and posting the solar overlay zoning bylaws from nearby towns that have approved those.  We will also encourage people on North Quabbin area town energy committees to bring this idea before their town governments, if this hasn’t already been done, so that towns are able to consider potential problems with solar farms before there are proposals already in the approval pipeline. Cathy will get contact information for the towns that we know have solar overlay districts (New Salem, Montague, Gill, Northfield) and Aimee will contact them to get their bylaw language.  Neil will get the Mass. DOER templates for solar and wind siting.

We talked about several other issues that have come up around the proposed solar farms.  It is not entirely clear whether towns can pass bylaws that challenge Green Communities’ as-of-right siting for renewable energy projects, which may be a possible snag.  Several people noted that it is also very difficult to get information from electric companies about where their feeder lines actually are, which makes it hard to coordinate possibly competing projects that may need to connect to the same feeder (which may in some cases serve more than one municipality).  We also discussed how environmental regulations might be mobilized in opposition to a solar farm that threatens sensitive wildlife habitat.

Garlic and Arts Festival Debrief:  Janice asked for input from the group for ideas and speakers for the festival. They hope to have the lineup in place by April or May.  It seems that high-tech topics don’t pull as big an audience as some others.  Solar thermal power always seems popular, as do food topics and hands-on workshops.

The “Power of Solutions” forum for town energy committees included people from eight of the nine North Quabbin towns plus Barre.  We all felt the forum was quite successful and that it was encouraging and useful for people to meet, share experiences, and begin to move toward some potentially coordinated regional projects. It is clear that each town is dealing with quite different circumstances and issues, but even just recognizing that fact and being aware of the range of potential ways to approach this can be helpful.

As discussed at the forum, NQE will aim to convene two of these gatherings annually, one at the Garlic Festival and one in early spring at a location to be determined each year.  Aimee will approach Al Rose at Red Apple Farm about the possibility of convening in their big meeting room this coming spring.  We felt it would be appealing if we were to meet in various places around the area (eg. the Wendell library’s community room, etc.).

Other ideas for upcoming events:

River Rat weekend:  There was interest in being part of the River Rat parade again, as we did two or three times when NQE first started.  Aimee and Donna will serve as a sub-committee to work on this idea.  They may approach other groups that use MREC about the idea of creating some big puppet figures (or using those created by kids’ groups at the Y in previous years) relating to environmental and energy themes.

Films:  There was interest in showing at least one film in the coming months.  One possibility is Hooked on Growth, which Pat has a copy of.

Home Show:  This was just mentioned briefly as one potential event in the spring.

Electricity campaign:  Janice is still collecting data from NQE members and tracking our electricity use.  The sub-committee working on this project will meet again and decide what the next step is.

Future meeting dates: We talked about whether we should establish a regular meeting time (eg. fourth Wednesday of every month) and stick with it.  The problem with this is that people’s schedules change and that there appears to be no evening that is consistently good for everyone in the core group.  We decided to continue with our meeting-by-meeting setting of dates, using a Doodle poll as we did this past time.  Cathy offered to host a potluck the week of December 12 and will set up a poll to pick a date for that.




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