HANCOCK – Work is back on track in the effort to harvest the wind over Brodie Mountain.
The Berkshire Wind project, stalled by litigation for about a year, began again on Oct. 13, with workers transporting and assembling components for 10 1.5megawatt General Electric wind turbines in Hancock and New Ashford.
Since the work stoppage last year, the cost of the 10-turbine wind project on Brodie Mountain went from $46 million to roughly $65 million, according to Betsy Strickler, a spokeswoman for the project.
EOS personnel had already played a major role in the construction of the wind turbine at Jiminy Peak and the largest offshore wind power project operating on the East Coast, which started producing power last November on the Fox Islands off the coast of Maine.
“This is a great project for us to be a part of and a marquee project for the state of Massachusetts,” Fairbank said.
The Berkshire Wind project is owned by the Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative Corp., a collaboration among the 14 members of the nonprofit Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co., which includes the communities of Ashburnham, Boylston, Groton, Holden, Hull, Ipswich, Marblehead, Paxton, Peabody, Shrewsbury, Sterling, Templeton, Wakefield and West Boylston.
Construction is likely to be completed by Thanksgiving, Fairbank said. After inspection and connectivity work is complete, officials estimated that the wind farm will start generating power into the utility grid sometime in March.
The work was stopped Oct. 7, 2009 after an injunction was issued by the Massachusetts land court over a lawsuit filed against the project by Dallas-based Silvereaf Resorts.
In early September, both parties reached a settlement in the case.
“I can’t tell you how many people have expressed outrage that this project was stopped,” Fairbank said. “When this is done, for a lot of people, it will be ‘Finally, they’re working.’ ” Two local business owners reflected that feeling when contacted Friday.
“I’m really disgusted with what the company had to go through to get this thing done,” said Ed Hannify, owner and innkeeper of the Jericho Valley Inn on Route 43 in Hancock.
From his property, Hannify and his guests get a “ringside” seat – right across the street and up the hill, the construction of the turbines can be seen in detail.
Hannify said the towers don’t detract from the scenic value.
“They’re interesting to look at – I think it will attract more people to the area,” he said. “And my guests say that this is the way of the future and they’re glad to see someone finally doing something about it.”
Down the road from the Jericho is Bob’s Campers, owned by Bob Gaskill. His spread is at the foot of a hill where the turbines are going up.
“We can hear the men working up there,” Gaskill said. “I think it’s a great idea that we need to do, but I do have some reservations. And I don’t think the sight is going to bother my business one way or the other. But a lot of people have been wondering when those turbines are going to start [operating].”
Fairbank said a crew of 65 people, some from local construction firms, are working on the project. The workers who are not local are staying in local hotels and eating locally.
Strickler noted that the project is the largest under construction in Massachusetts. Once operating, it will annually generate the equivalent of the electricity needed to power 6,000 homes, double the current amount of wind power generated in the state, offset the production of 570,000 tons of CO2, and eliminate the need for 1.7 million barrels of oil.
Under the terms of the settlement, Berkshire Wind has agreed to move three of the turbines, and Silverleaf Resorts, which owns a neighboring condominium project planned at the base of Brodie Mountain, has agreed to refrain from any further lawsuits.
The lawsuit alleged that the special permit issued by Lanesborough for road access to the construction site had expired before the work began. The state’s land court agreed and issued an injunction against using the access road from Brodie Mountain Road to the construction site.
Silverleaf contended that the sight of three of the turbines, which rise about 385 feet above the ridge line, would negatively impact the sales potential for the proposed $ 62 million, 324- unit time-share condominium project.
The settlement agreement calls for Berkshire Wind to move two of the three turbines to the south end of the project site, and another 60 feet west from its previously planned location.
During the work stoppage, Western Massachusetts Electric Co. installed high-capacity distribution lines from a substation in Lanesborough to the Brodie Mountain site and stand ready to connect to the new power supply once it’s ready.
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