BOSTON (AP) - The largest utilities in Massachusetts have signed long-term contracts to buy wind-generated electricity at prices below the cost of most other sources, including coal and nuclear, administration officials announced Monday.

The contracts filed jointly with state utilities regulators by National Grid, Northeast Utilities - which owns NStar and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. - and Unitil Corp. would buy 565 megawatts of electricity from six planned wind farms in Maine and New Hampshire, or enough to power about 170,000 homes, according to a statement from the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.

It would be the largest procurement of renewable energy in New England. The weighted average price from all of the contracts is less than eight cents per kilowatt hour, lower than projected prices for coal and nuclear power.

If approved by the state Department of Public Utilities, the contracts would eventually save ratepayers between an estimated 75 cents to $1 per month, the utilities estimated.

"Working together, we are making significant progress toward creating cost-effective, renewable energy and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions," Gov. Deval Patrick said in a statement. "This procurement is a critical step in creating a 21st century clean energy future in Massachusetts."

The DPU will begin its review process to ensure the procurement is cost-effective for ratepayers.


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The process includes a public comment period and public hearings for each of the utilities.

"By pooling the resources of all the utilities, we were able to purchase a large amount of clean, renewable energy for the state at below-market prices," said Ronald Gerwatowski, National Grid's senior vice president for U.S. Regulation and Pricing. "In addition to delivering environmental benefits for years to come, these agreements have the potential to save customers money over the long term."

The deal was welcomed by environmental groups.

"By again taking action to go long on renewable energy at locked-in prices, Massachusetts is further buffering electric customers from the fossil fuel price rollercoaster," Conservation Law Foundation President John Kassel said.