FLORIDA – Construction work on the proposed $90 million, 30-megawatt Hoosac Wind project could begin as early as September, should it pass its final hurdle at the beginning of the month.
Town officials will hold a special permit hearing and a special town meeting at the Florida Community Center on Route 2 beginning at 6 p.m. on Sept. 1.
During the special town meeting, voters will be asked to approve three warrant articles: one to accept a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) from project owner New England Wind LLC; another granting the town municipal easement over the Hoosac Wind project’s access roads and the last to give the project developer the ability to make temporary road improvements, use town roads and store equipment on the land used by the fire station during the construction process.
According to Town Administrator Christine Dobbert, the special permit hearing will finalize the amount the town will receive in PILOT payments from New England Wind LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, which owns 40 wind farms, generating about 4,000-megawatts, throughout the country.
“Our state permitting is entirely complete,” Paul Copleman, a spokesman for Iberdrola Renewables, said Monday. “Providing everything goes well next week, our local permitting will be done as well. We certainly anticipate starting construction this year, with completion scheduled for 2011.”
The project, which has been in the making since 2003, endured a six-year legal battle over wetlands-permitting issues before winning the final go-ahead from the state Supreme Judicial Court in July.
Iberdrola Renewables took over the project in 2004 after purchasing it from enXco, the original developer.
The project, which calls for 20 turbines to be built on a combination of public and private land on Bakke Mountain in Florida and Crum Hill in Monroe, was originally slated to cost $45 million.
“The costs have jumped significantly when you look at what it would cost to build a wind farm in 2003 versus the costs in 2010,” Copleman said. “The costs in building a wind farm also are entirely up front – from the purchasing of the turbine parts to the construction.”
According to the special permit, Iberdrola intends to install a dozen 1.5-megawatt GE Wind Energy turbines in Florida and eight in Monroe.
Each turbine will stand 213 feet tall at the hub, with three blades of 127 feet in length. With the blades in place, the windmills will reach about 340 feet high from top to bottom. Five of the turbines in Florida and an additional five in Monroe will sit on town-owned land.
In comparison, Zephyr, the privately-owned wind turbine at the top of Jiminy Peak in Hancock, is 386 feet tall with blades that are 123 feet in length.
Copleman said the project is expected to generate between 75 to 100 full-time construction and engineering jobs during the construction phase, which is typical for a wind farm of its size.
The company expects to have two full-time operations and maintenance employees to operate the plant throughout its 30-year life expectancy.
According to the permit application, Iberdrola anticipates the project will generate more than $250,000 in lease payments annually to the towns and private landowners with turbines situated on their properties.
“Total revenues to landowners will likely exceed $7 million over the expected 30-year life of the project,” the application states.
“Approximately one-half of these revenues will accrue directly to the towns because up to 10 of the 20 turbines are sited on land owned by the towns.”
The company also anticipates making PILOT payments totaling $270,000 over the 30-year span – about $162,000 to Florida and $108,000 to Monroe.
As part of the project, Iberdrola will construct two 16-foot-wide, permanent, gravel access roads, a garage and two 214 foot tall meteorological towers. New utility poles will also be installed on Tilda Hill, Main, Kingsley Hill and River roads.
In addition, the company anticipates that its construction loads, which are scheduled to come in from the eastern side of the mountain, will be limited by the state to Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. in a move to reduce traffic delays.
A State Police escort will accompany the loads on state highways, which will be held up at straight-aways to allow traffic to pass around them, the permit states.
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