Proposed N. Springfield biomass plant draws concern, support

by Stephen Seitz
As a 35-megawatt biomass electric plant proposed for North Springfield inches forward, some in Chester are raising questions about traffic while others are fully supporting the project.
Years may pass before ground is broken: The Public Service Board has yet to issue a certificate authorizing the plant’s construction at the North Springfield Industrial Park, on Precision Drive, and no Act 250 permits for the project have been filed, according to the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission Agency of Natural Resources database.
But co-developers Winstanley Enterprises, a Massachusetts real estate development company, and Weston Solutions, a global environmental consulting firm headquartered in Pennsylvania, are working hard to smooth its path.

According to Winstanley, the proposed wood chip plant, with chips coming mostly from area logging concerns, would provide power to some 25,000 homes, with excess heat used for an underground hot water loop around the industrial park, lowering heating and cooling costs for the park’s tenants. The water loop is expected to lower energy costs for existing tenants, help attract new ones and “make the park a green energy park,” Winstanley partner Adam Winstanley told a public meeting in Springfield on Feb. 23.
That prospect gained early support from Black River Produce co-owner and Chester resident Mark Curran, who, in 2010 wrote that his company would be interested in constructing hot house greenhouses and using that excess heat to grow organic tomatoes.

Truck traffic raised as an issue

There is only one access road to the park, and it reaches from the center of North Springfield to Route 10 just past the town line near the Route 106 intersection. From Chester, log trucks would have to use Route 103 and Route 10.
At the public meeting, Adam Winstanley told those gathered, “… biomass plant … generate(s) cost-effective renewable power. … More than that … Our plant would generate 30 new permanent jobs and 25 indirect jobs” as well as offer lower energy costs and create a “green energy park.”
Winstanley Enterprises already has a building in the park.
Chester Selectman Tom Bock wanted to know how traffic would be affected.
“The biggest concern for Chester citizens is traffic,” Bock said. “We’ve heard 48 trucks a day. That’s one-way trips, correct?”
“I believe that’s return trips as well,” Winstanley replied.
Bock asked how much of an increase in truck traffic to expect in the first five years. Winstanley said plans are to distribute the truck traffic as broadly as possible.
“It looks like most of that traffic is going to come up Route 103 through a primarily residential district,” Bock said, referring to Chester. “That’s what we’re concerned about.”
Winstanley consultant Ben Swanson said the truck traffic would amount to one trip in and one trip out per hour. Winstanley said he didn’t think the traffic increase would be all that noticeable.
“We have 200 trucks a day right now,” he said. “I interviewed everybody in the park. Nobody right now is complaining about the truck traffic at the park. If you look at 1,500 cars plus all the additional truck traffic at the park in its heyday, we’re still way below what the park was at its peak.”
Chester resident John Holme asked about odors from the plant, and was told there wouldn’t be any.

Some nearby Chester residents supportive

The nearest Chester residences to the plant site are on Davidson Hill Road, but residents contacted late last week do not seem overly concerned. Craig Hall said he didn’t know much about the project, but would have some concerns about the increased traffic.
“Route 10 has an awful lot of bicyclists,” he said. “I burn wood myself, so I have no problem with them doing it.”
Gary Johnson said he had no qualms at all with the plant nearby. “I think it could be a good idea,” he said.
According to a 2009 Route 103 management plan commissioned by the state Agency of Transportation, Route 103 south of Chester sees about 6,000 vehicles per day.
“We’re working on some measures to mitigate the truck traffic,” Bock said recently. He is also Chester’s representative to Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission. “Traffic will come up before the Public Service Board. Something has to be done.”
The full public meeting is currently on public access Channel 10 in Chester at various times. More documents and testimony about the project can be found at the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission website.

View Larger Map

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: FeaturedLatest News

About the Author: Steve Seitz is an author, journalist and film critic based in Springfield,VT. He has reported local news in the Upper Connecticut River Valley for many years. Steve has been interviewed on NPR's "The Story" for his knowledge of cinematic music. He also has interviewed such cinematic luminaries as James Earl Jones, Jerry Lewis, James Whitmore, Matthew Lewis ("Neville Longbottom" from the Harry Potter films), and an original cast member from every "Star Trek" series, among many others. He is working on other novels.

RSSComments (1)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. The proposed 25-35 Mw project does not belong in our community. This is the sentiment shared by many of the residents of the area and was strongly voiced at the recent PSB Public Hearing held on the 28th of February in Springfield.

    Moreover, this statement reflects the findings in a study by the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. A study by NERL reviewed biomass plants including the McNeil plant in Burlington. The McNeil plant is a venerable old horse that was the first fully wood-fired biomass plant in the United States and McNeil has been updated during the course of its 30 years existence. NERL found that, “The primary lesson learned from the McNeil plant experience in Burlington, Vermont is careful attention to the siting of a biomass-fueled plant. Siting the plant in a residential neighborhood of a small city has caused a number of problems and extra expenses over the years: a permit requirement to use trains for fuel supply, high taxes, high labor rates, local political involvement, and neighborhood complaints about odors and noise.”

    Let’s develop lasting and smart jobs in Vermont while we preserve the health and the environment. Let’s not settle for a power plant that creates 28 to 30 jobs at the expense of agriculture and residential quality of life interests. Long-term health effects as cited by the American Lung Association must be considered.

    We already have examples of businesses in North Springfield and elsewhere in our area that show we do not need to resort to unsustainable biomass energy of this type to be successful. Let’s not settle for the low-hanging fruit. Let’s set our goals higher and aspire to attract high tech, or high-end organic agriculture or other forward looking economic development to Springfield and our neighboring communities.

    Respectfully submitted. Bob Kischko