September 6, 2012

Wind power in the hills; Turbine project to power 6,000 homes

By DIANE BRONCACCIO, Recorder Staff | The Recorder | 6 September 2012

MONROE – Nineteen 340-foot wind turbines are going up on Crum Hill in Monroe and Bakke Mountain in Florida, not far from Whitcomb Summit. And when they go on-line in December, they will generate enough electricity to power 6,000 homes, according to Jan Johnson, spokeswoman for Iberdrola Renewables.

These Hoosac Wind Power Project turbines will also be generating $257,000 in annual payments in lieu of taxes for their two host communities for the next 20 years. Monroe, a town of about 120 people, will get $122,000 per year, while Florida, a town of 750, will receive $135,000. Also, Monroe will get an additional $3 million in revenue for the lease of town-owned land for the 20-year duration of this project, because five of the wind turbines are on town-owned land.

The Hoosac Wind Power Project is Iberdrola’s first wind farm in Massachusetts, although the company currently operates about 3,000 wind turbines in the United States, at 50 different sites.

For six to eight weeks this summer, trucks carrying 125-foot-long sections of the turbine blades could be seen on Route 2 from Greenfield to Florida. It took three vehicles to haul just one complete set of blades to the site. The components are all in place now and being erected.

Johnson said the average wind turbine has about 8,000 parts in it. The GE 1.5-megawatt wind turbines feature towers that are 215 feet tall. Besides the mammoth blades, each turbine has a nacelle, which is a Winnabago-sized rectangle housing the gearbox, the electronics, generator and anemometer, which measures wind speed and direction.

According to Bill J. Williams Jr., senior project manager, the blades of these turbines will be able to swivel into the direction of the wind and “find that sweet spot,” based on the information from the anemometer. On the other hand, the rotor and blades will be capable of turning away from damaging high winds.

He said the weather information provided by the anemometers will be conveyed to a local operator through buried fiberoptics. It would also be transmitted to Iberdrola’s national headquarters in Portland, Wash.

This week, Iberdrola officials gave regional reporters a preview of the wind farm.

Just the foundations alone for the turbines used about 200 cubic yards of concrete and 79,000 pounds of steel.

Ground-breaking for the network of roads to make component deliveries to the hilltop turbines began last November. Johnson pointed out that the roads needed to be tough enough to withstand the transport of components weighing several tons. But once the construction is finished, the roads will be narrowed to the minimum width needed for maintenance.

“We will reclaim, re-vegetate, and re-seed the land,” she said. Most wind facilities maintain a construction “footprint” that represents less than 2 percent of the land leased for the project.

Each Hoosac Wind turbine measures 340 feet high from the top blade to the base. In contrast, the 900-kilowatt turbine at Berkshire East is 277 feet tall.

The power generated by the turbines will go through National Grid and be purchased by NSTAR, which is getting renewable energy credits for the carbon-neutral energy.

According to Iberdrola officials, the Hoosac Wind Power Project will offset about 100 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year – the equivalent of the annual emissions produced by 9,400 cars.

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