PRINCETON— The region’s heavy dependence on fossil fuels and their high cost has led to the development of a cooperative created to assist municipal power companies in developing and financing wind projects.
The Massachusetts Municipal Light Department Wind Energy Cooperative has been established through a joint effort by the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co. and the Princeton Municipal Light Department to finance and construct a wind farm on Mount Wachusett.
Jonathan V. Fitch, manager of PMLD, said the cooperative will enable the light department to borrow funds for the wind project without affecting the town’s budget, tax rate or borrowing capacity.
“The cooperative can borrow on its own,” Mr. Fitch said. “There’s more flexibility this way.”
Mr. Fitch said the formation of the cooperative is a logical next step for the MMWEC, which exists to provide energy services to municipal lighting plants. “It’s taking steps to help individual light plants, instead of groups of lighting plants,” he said.
The cooperative is currently limited to the Princeton wind project, although the incorporation papers permit other wind projects to join.
“We’re getting started with Princeton,” said David Tuohey, communications manager for the MMWEC. “We hope to bring other municipal utilities’ wind projects through the cooperative. It’s a vehicle for them to diversify their power supply.”
Mr. Tuohey added that while there are currently no other members of the cooperative, the town of Templeton is in the process of establishing a project adjacent to Narragansett Regional High School.
Mr. Fitch said the cooperative agreement stipulates that each municipal light department is only permitted to vote on its own projects.
“If other munis (municipal light departments) use this tool, it will become a more streamlined process, and we all get the benefit of learning from each other,” Mr. Fitch said.
Mr. Fitch said that he has made the initial payment for the turbines, and that the co-operative is in the process of finalizing the balance of the financing.
Ground was broken for Princeton’s $6.5 million wind farm Aug. 24. Two 1.5 megawatt turbines are on order, with an expected delivery date of next summer.
By Sandy Meindersma
7 September 2007
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