Lanesborough: Wind project pushes on


Friday May 21, 2010

LANESBOROUGH -- While a lawsuit is holding up the completion of the $46 million wind power project on Brodie Mountain, the Western Massachusetts Electric Co. is midway through a project to install new utility poles from Brodie Mountain through Lanesborough to get the wind power to the public utility grid.

However, because the project is held up in litigation, there is no guarantee that it will ever be completed, although the developer of the project expressed optimism that a settlement of the lawsuit will be reached.

According to Sandra Ahern, spokeswoman for WMECO, the $4 million project to upgrade the utility poles and run the new transmission line has already been paid for by the wind project developer, so they went ahead with the project.

"If we're asked to design and build a connection to our system and [they pay] for it, then that's what we'll do," she said.

The new line will take the power from Brodie Mountain, down Brodie Mountain Road and then south along Route 7 to a WMECO substation near Partridge Road eight miles away in Lanesborough where it will be transmitted into the electrical grid, Ahern said. The substation will also be upgraded to handle the new power supply.

The project began in March and is expected to be completed by July 1.

Meanwhile, negotiations between the Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative Corp. (BWPCC) -- owner of the wind project and a collaborative of 14 members of the nonprofit Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co. (MMWEC) -- and Dallas-based Silverleaf Resorts have continued.

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"Settlement discussions continue to take place and we have every reason to believe that those discussions will be fruitful," said Tyler Fairbank, a spokesman for Berkshire Wind.

Representatives of Silverleaf Resorts have said that the Berkshire Wind project threatens the potential for their $62 million time-share condominium project in development at the base of Brodie Mountain.

Silverleaf wants Berkshire Wind to relocate three of its 10 turbines that are within 150 feet of the Snowy Owl Resort condo project's property line.

Silverleaf was successful in getting the Massachusetts Land Court to halt construction of the wind project on Oct. 7, 2009. The court issued an injunction against using the access road from Brodie Mountain Road to the construction site. The injunction prevents the project from being completed before Silverleaf Resorts' suit is resolved. In its lawsuit, Silverleaf contends that a special permit for part of the access road in Lanesborough had expired before the work started.

Construction of the turbines was expected to be completed by now and generating enough power for 6,000 homes.

To date, two of the 10, 1.5-megawatt turbines have been completed, five more are under construction, and three sites are ready for the rest. The turbines rise about 385 feet above the ridge line.

Based in Dallas, Silverleaf Resorts intends to build a 324-unit condominium project on the 1,080 acres of land it has acquired around Brodie Mountain.

According to information provided by Silverleaf, it is estimated that the condo project would generate $382,000 in yearly tax revenue for New Ashford and roughly $30 million in annual spending by visitors to the resort once it is completed.

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


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