FLORIDA – Only one of the 19 windmills has been turned on so far, but on Monday, Gov. Deval Patrick and state energy officials celebrated the near completion of what will be the largest wind farm in both Massachusetts and Southern New England.
“Wind energy has so much potential, and when this project is complete, it will be a big step forward in reducing our reliance on volatile, foreign fossil fuels,” Patrick said.
According to the governor’s office, the 1.5 megawatt wind turbines will generate enough power to run at least 10,000 homes a year. When the Hoosac farm goes online later this year, Massachusetts will be on track toward producing 100 MW of renewable energy.
State Sen. Benjamin Downing, chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, said the towns of Monroe and Florida have worked on this project for years and deserve credit for having the persistence and foresight. “Clean energy, along with efficiency and conservation, is key to solving climate change,” he said.
The project has been in the works since 2001, and has already produced economic benefits for the region, says Paul Copleman, a spokesman for Iberdrola Renewables LLC, owner and operator of the project. At the peak of construction, he said, the wind turbine project employed 140 construction workers, with $3.8 million spent locally during building. He said the project will generate roughly $6.9 million in payment-in-lieu-of taxes for the towns, with land-lease payments to local owners totalling about $3 million.
“The Hoosac Wind Power Project generates not only clean, renewable energy, but also sustainable jobs and tax revenue for the community,” said Martin Mugica, president and CEO of Iberdrola. “We are proud to bring this level of long-term economic development to Massachusetts, and we could not do it without the support of our many partners.
But not everyone present was celebrating the imminent completion of the wind project. A group with concerns about noise levels and health consequences stood outside the gates of the wind farm with posters expresssing opposition.
After the press conference, Patrick and Sullivan met with representatives of those opponents: Michael Farineny of Florida and Malcom Donald of Falmouth.
“I never anticipated that,” said Farineny, who lives about a half-mile from the wind turbines on Crum Hill. His greatest concern is about the potential sound impact once the turbines are turned on. He said he asked the governor for an independent sound-study of the ambient noise, which would set a baseline for the limits of allowable noise once the turbines are turned on, at month’s end. Farineny said he has been asking his selectmen for that also, but they have said no.
“I feel like my whole world is going to turn to crap,” said Farineny, who has lived in his home for 28 years.“We were told we would never even see these things, and now I’m afraid we’re going to hear them.”
Farineny said he can see three of the 340-foot turbines from his home and seven of them from the top of his field.
He said about 12 people came to show their opposition to the project, including residents from Falmouth, Savoy, Clarksburg, Hawley and Buckland. Farineny said the group of protestors selected him as their spokesperson and Malcom Donald, because Falmouth’s experiences with a noisy wind turbine has caused problems.
Farineny said he is concerned that noise from the turbines will exceed the state law that limits turbine noise to 10 decibels above ambient sound, because the town permits allow a noise level of up to 63 decibels – which Farineny says exceeds state law.
“The town agreed the sound could go up to 63 decibels because they didn’t know any better,” said Farineny. “That was in 2003. When they proposed this, there was no bylaw in this town for anything like this.”
Farineny said he had not expected to get an audience with the governor.
When asked about noise issues, Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman said, “In operating this project, we have an obligation to meet the permit requirements of the state and the towns.”
According to Copleman, the first wind turbine was turned on Monday, after the governor’s departure. He said the project is not yet on line – that testing just began Monday— “but it will be, later on this month,” he said.
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