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Florida in waiting game for Hoosac wind project

FLORIDA, Mass. – The permits are in place, the roads are built but the top of Bakke Mountain is not the hotbed of activity many expected.

Iberdrola Renewables is planning to build 20 wind turbines, producing 30 megawatts of energy, on Bakke Mountain in Florida and on Crum Hill in Monroe. After nearly 10 years in the making, the Hoosac Wind Project finally received all of its permits last year with a goal to complete the project by the end of this year.

But then the energy-purchase agreement expired. According to Paul Copleman, communications manager for Iberdrola Renewables, a new agreement between Iberdrola and NStar had been written but the company now has to wait for the state Department of Environmental Protection to approve it before major construction begins.

“We’ve pushed the start of major construction until next year,” Copleman said on Tuesday. “We began some of the preliminary site work.”

The new agreement is expected to be approved soon and Iberdrola hopes to begin construction next spring with a goal of finishing it in by the end of next year.

Access roads and some site preparation was completed last year but since then, no work has occurred at the peaks, according to Town Administrator Christine Dobbert.

“There has been nothing done on it this year,” Dobbert said on Thursday.

The project has a storied history as it weaved through the judicial system. The town of Florida has been supporting the project since 2003 but local abuttors and an environmentalist group have been fighting wetlands permits granted by the state in 2005. The dispute finally came to an end last year.

The town has twice extended special permits as the project progressed and last year all of the permits were finally put into place. Since the major construction was postponed again, the company will have to renew its permits with the town’s Conservation Commission when the current ones expire in October, according to Dobbert.

Dobbert said the town is confident that the project will continue and the extra delay is not a cause of frustration.

“It’s been 10 years, what’s another eight months?” she said. “It’s going to happen.”

Copleman, however, is itching to get the project going.

“It’s been a long haul to get this far,” Copleman said. “We are looking forward to building this project.”