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Fairhaven wind turbines still have a way to go

Although special Town Meeting voters authorized the selectmen to negotiate a 25-year lease with CCI Energy that will allow the company to install two wind turbines on town land, the deal is far from concluded.

“This isn’t something simple,” selectmen Chairman Ronald J. Manzone said. “There are things that have to be done.”

CCI is still negotiating the final terms of an agreement with the town that will allow the company to erect two 396-foot turbines on town land and sell energy to the town at wholesale prices.

CCI also must clear hurdles with the Conservation Commission and seek a special permit with the Planning Board for installation of the turbines.

Several other state and federal permits also are needed.

Tuesday night, Town Meeting voters gave CCI the critical support it needs to build the first commercial wind project in SouthCoast, despite the unruliness of the meeting.

The project faced opposition from neighbors up to the last minute on Town Meeting floor, with members of opposition group WindWise dominating the microphones and attempting to make bylaw changes that would have killed the project, including increasing setback requirements.

Most of the 10 petition articles failed or were indefinitely postponed.

“We’ve done the homework; we have the bylaws in place. I like to be proactive,” Mr. Manzone said. “We brought a viable option to the town.”

The Little Bay turbines will help power the water treatment plant on Arsene Street. The town stands to save at least $50,000 year in electricity costs and get paid $100,000 a year in royalties and taxes.

If erected, the turbines would be the largest wind operation in the state, putting the town in the vanguard of renewable wind energy.

“To me, I’m proud to take the lead,” Mr. Manzone said. “Fairhaven had the first gas lamps in the area.”

When Mr. Manzone took office two years ago, he opposed CCI’s proposal, but changed his mind as the process developed.

“If you asked me three or four years ago if I supported wind, I would say, ‘You’re crazy,'” he said. “For the last two years of my life, I’ve been working on this very hard, asking a lot of tough questions. For the last two years, I’ve been driving (developer Jim Sweeney) mad. He’s answered all my questions.”

By Joao Ferreira
Standard-Times staff writer

southcoasttoday.com

18 May 2007