Optimism over Hoosac Wind

Monday January 24, 2011

FLORIDA -- If the weather cooperates and 20 wind turbines can be delivered on time, the Hoosac Wind project could be up and operating by the end of the year or in early 2012, according to Paul Copleman, communications manager for Iberdrola Renewables, owner of the 30-megawatt wind farm in Florida and Monroe.

Already, he said, there has been preliminary clearing and preparation work to prepare for construction of the access roads, and geo-technical and engineering work is ongoing.

The now $90 million project had been delayed by litigation since 2004. During the six-year legal battle, the cost of the project soared past the former estimate of $45 million. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court cleared the way for work to begin in July 2010.

The 30-megawatt wind farm includes 20 turbines to be built on Bakke Mountain in Florida and Crum Hill in Monroe. The 20 General Electric 1.5-megawatt wind turbines have the capacity to power more than 22,500 homes.

The goal, Copleman said, is to have construction complete by the end of the year. But aspects beyond control of the developer, such as weather and availability of wind turbines, could delay completion.

In any case, work is expected to start in earnest after the ground thaws, Copleman said.

He noted that construction of the access road would take about six months, and installation of the 20 concrete turbine foundations will take about three months, with the interconnectivity process expected to last another month or two.

"Even this preliminary construction work is an exciting step forward for us," Copleman said. "Years of work are just now starting to come to something more tangible in a state and a community that have been so supportive of our efforts. So we look forward to the progress in the months ahead."

The payment in lieu of taxes agreement has been approved by the developer and both communities, Copleman noted.

According to Christine Dobbert, town manager of Florida, the agreement is expected to generate between $250,000 and $300,000 yearly for the community's general fund. Florida's annual operating budget totals about $2 million.

Once the turbines begin generating electricity into the utility grid, she said, "it will definitely put some money into our budget. Maybe that's why we're not too worried" about expected cuts to local aid coming from the state.

Whenever possible, local contractors will be used in construction, Copleman said. At peak construction, he estimated that more than 120 workers will be involved.

The project includes two gravel access roads to the ridgelines that would house the turbines, one of which would cross 12 streams.

In 2004, a group of nearby residents and the local environmental group Green Berkshires sued, later seeking review of a decision that the project complied with the Wetlands Protection Act.

It was largely due to this litigation delay that the Patrick administration championed the so-called wind-siting bill to streamline the permitting process and avenues of challenge for renewable energy projects.

The bill was passed by both the state Senate and House, but did not gain final approval before time ran out on the 2010 session. The administration is expected to propose a similar bill during the 2011 session.

To reach Scott Stafford:
or (413) 496-6241.


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