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Little wind farm eyes big deal; Wants Nstar to tap into its turbines as part of merger deal

The developer of a small wind farm in western Massachusetts wants state regulators to rework last month’s Nstar merger settlement, saying its project is as “worthy” as Cape Wind and would help Gov. Deval Patrick reach his lofty green-energy goals.

“We’re not against Cape Wind, but we do think the process should bring in other, cheaper projects that will benefit other communities in the state,” said Donald McCauley, president of Minuteman Wind LLC.

The Framingham-based firm has been working on a five-turbine project in Savoy, a town of 709 near North Adams, since 2005 without securing a power-purchase contract.

But Minuteman Wind saw an opening when Nstar finally gave in to Patrick administration pressure and agreed to buy 27.5 percent of Cape Wind’s energy, among other concessions on its $4.7 billion merger with Northeast Utilities.

McCauley, in a recent letter to the Department of Public Utilities, said the settlement “unfairly places the interests of one project developer before the interests of others” seeking deals with utilities. The DPU has scheduled a hearing Wednesday to review the settlement.

The request to reopen the settlement faces fierce headwinds because the deal took months of painstaking negotiations and the utilities are fast approaching an early-April merger deadline.

“We are not planning to reopen the settlement,” said Nstar spokeswoman Caroline Pretyman. “We worked diligently with the state on the settlement, and we’re pleased with the outcome.”

The Patrick administration said the settlement was designed to freeze utility rates and “maximize clean energy development.”

McCauley noted that power from the land-based Savoy wind farm would cost less than 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to 18.7 cents for Cape Wind’s first year.

However, at 12.5 megawatts, the Savoy wind farm’s power output is a breeze compared to Cape Wind’s gust of 468 megawatts – which by itself would deliver nearly a quarter of Patrick’s goal of 2,000 megawatts of wind energy installed by 2020.

“It’s not as big as Cape Wind,” McCauley said, “but it will benefit a town that really needs some support and wants the turbines.”

Selectman Scott Koczela said about 80 percent of Savoy voters backed a bylaw geared toward Minuteman Wind’s project, which will generate an estimated $220,000 in property taxes. That revenue seems minimal until it’s compared to the annual budget of $2 million in Savoy, a rural town with little industry that relies heavily on state aid.

“If the governor has made this commitment toward green energy and he’s serious about this, we can’t continue to put a price tag on these projects,” Koczela said. “I know it’s the Berkshires and I know it’s only five turbines on a little farm, but if you add up a bunch of these little projects it comes to quite a bit of energy.”