A Berkshires wind turbine project saw $3 million in construction delays after it was forced to halt work in September 2009, according to a report from Fitch Ratings.
The 15-megawatt project is being built by Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative Corp., a coalition of 14 utilities that are members of the nonprofit Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company. The 10-turbine project is located on Brodie Mountain in the towns of Hancock and Lanesborough, and could supply enough electricity to power 6,000 homes.
The Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative has issued a total of $65.9 million in bonds in connection with the project, which Fitch Ratings gave an A rating.
Fitch Ratings reported that the bonds include $3 million that resulted from the delay in construction, which occurred when work was forced to shut down after four complete turbines and three partial turbines had been erected. A Massachusetts Land Court judge had handed down an order to stop the work, in response to a lawsuit by a condominium developer, Silverleaf Resorts, that wanted to build a project nearby.
The suit, over the special permit for the access road, had been filed prior to the start of construction on the turbines.
Following a year of negotiations with Silverleaf, the lawsuit was settled this past September and work allowed to resume, after the project location for three of the turbines was changed to be less visible from the condos. Berkshire Wind Power paid $250,000 in connection with the litigation, according to the Fitch Ratings report.
Officials estimate the project will be operational by February, according to the report.
The project had become a touchstone for advocates of wind siting reform in Massachusetts, with wind power supporters saying it highlighted the uncertainty around developing wind projects in the state.
A state wind siting bill, which seeks to streamline the approval process for wind power projects, won approval from both the state House and Senate this year, but didn’t get the final vote needed for passage during the formal legislative session in July.
Senate President Therese Murray and fellow Senate Democrats attempted on more than two dozen occasions to pass the bill during the informal legislative session, but were blocked by Senate Republicans, who argued it would take too much control away from local authorities.
Advocates have contended it would still provide for local officials to perform a full review, and would only serve to ensure that wind developers have some certainty about what to expect from the process.
Murray recently put efforts to pass the bill on hold. If the bill fails to win approval by the end of the year during the Legislature’s informal session, it would need to be re-filed next year, and the approval process would have to be started over.
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