A 400-foot-tall wind turbine will be erected later this year on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Blandford, a highly visible advertisement for an energy future in the state that is expected to increasingly feature renewable sources of power.
Solaya Renewable Energy, of Woburn, has been selected by the state to install the utility-scale wind turbine on state-owned land adjacent to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Blandford Service Area, the highest location in the turnpike system. The company is scheduled to break ground on the project later this year and construction should take three to six months.
The 1.5 megawatt turbine will produce up to 3,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually, sufficient power for roughly 400 households.
However, the turbine will have a secondary role, in a sense, as a goodwill ambassador for wind power, said state Energy Commissioner Philip M. Giudice.
“This is a symbol and a real-life example of the new things we are doing about our energy future, instead of continuing to rely on old fossil fuel plants,” he said.
Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian A. Bowles said that the state “is on track for a tenfold increase in wind power during Governor Patrick’s current four-year term – from 3.1 megawatts in 2007 to over 30 megawatts by the end of this year.”
The governor has called for 2,000 megawatts of wind power in the state by 2020.
The Blandford site, which is on 68 acres, was chosen after the University of Massachusetts Renewable Energy Laboratory tested wind speeds and other site conditions there for 13 months. The size of the parcel and its proximity to the electrical grid were also factors in the decision.
Wind power may need a goodwill ambassador. Although it produces power at a cost that is competitive with power from traditional sources, such as oil and gas, and it produces no air emissions, wind power still meets opposition in some places because of the visual impact of the turbines.
The most ambitious wind project in the state, Cape Wind, is a proposed offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound involving 130 turbines with the potential to produce 420 megawatts of electricity. While the turbines would be no closer than five miles from any shore, the project has been fiercely opposed by some citizens of Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Cape Cod, including the Kennedy family, who claim the turbines would mar the scenery.
However, Giudice said public opinion polls show strong support statewide for Cape Wind and he is optimistic the project will still be approved.
“Before Governor Patrick took office, there were only a few turbines operating in the state. Now we have nearly two dozen spinning and several dozen more in various stages of development,” he said.
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