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Orleans decision gives local wind project a boost

FAIRHAVEN – The Fairhaven wind project and developer CCI Energy seemed one step closer to securing turbines for their project after the Orleans Board of Water Commissioners decided against proceeding with its own wind project last week.

But that one step is still tantalizingly far from the finishing line now that the Orleans Select Board voted Wednesday night to reopen the review process.

CCI Energy must now compete against other projects from around the state, as well as Orleans, to win the two turbines from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

“We’re evaluating the options for these two particular turbines, and the Fairhaven project is certainly in the mix,” said Nils Bolgen, program manager of MTC’s Clean Energy program.

MTC purchased two wind turbines for the Orleans project in 2005. When the project first started faltering in 2006, MTC put out a request for proposals from other potential sites around the state in late 2006 to early 2007, according to Mr. Bolgen.

CCI Energy was one of a number of projects that submitted proposals, according to Mr. Bolgen. These were put on hold when the Orleans project got back on track but, now that it may be derailed again, MTC is going back and re-evaluating these proposals.

(CCI Energy’s) still in the mix, obviously, for the Fairhaven project because that one is fairly far along in terms of studies and local approvals and things like that,” Mr. Bolgen said.

For CCI Energy, this is a frustrating delay.

“Now, besides us thinking we’re going to get them, other people are starting to ask,” said James Sweeney, president of CCI Energy.

Until MTC makes a decision, CCI Energy is stuck in limbo, unwilling to move forward on purchasing alternative turbines when the possibility to secure MTC’s equipment is still alive.

“I’ve got some alternatives but, to exercise the alternatives, you have to put down a million-dollar deposit,” Mr. Sweeney said. “Until we have a definite answer, I’m not going to order replacement turbines because that would be throwing good money after bad.”

Forward progress on the Fairhaven project is stalled until CCI Energy can secure turbines, according to Mr. Sweeney, a situation that is affecting the project’s finances.

“The big drawback is that the cost of the turbines and the cost of the installation goes up on a monthly basis,” Mr. Sweeney said, “yet the terms of our agreement with the town stay fixed.”

Under the terms of this agreement, CCI Energy must have the wind project up and running by June 2009.

If CCI Energy were to win MTC’s turbines, Mr. Sweeney estimated that the turbines, which are being stored in Texas, would not arrive until March at the earliest.

However, if CCI Energy has to go outside the MTC to buy turbines, the wait could be 18 months or longer, Mr. Sweeney said.

Meanwhile, some Orleans residents haven’t given up hope that they’ll be able to reverse the water board’s decision.

“Even the president of the United States is supposed to have a review process,” said Carl Freeman, head of the Committee to Save Orleans Wind. “We think this should have a review process as well.”

If Orleans reverses its decision, it may not be out of the running for MTC’s turbines, according to Mr. Freeman.

“If we were able to reverse that decision, they would take a good hard look at it,” Mr. Freeman said of the MTC.

While the MTC does not have a hard-and-fast deadline for making a decision, they are looking to place the turbines quickly, though not without a thorough review of the proposed projects, according to Mr. Bolgen.

“We certainly want to see these turbines up and running as soon as possible. That’s what’s driving us,” he said.

By Charis Anderson
Standard-Times staff writer


21 September 2007