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Hoosac Wind Project: Gov. Deval Patrick, officials applaud largest land-based turbine project in Southern New England

FLORIDA – As Gov. Deval Patrick joined state politicians and representatives from General Electric and Iberdrola Renewables on Bakke Mountain to celebrate the Hoosac Wind Project on Monday, resident Stanley Brown and Selectmen’s Chair Neil G. Oleson joined the crowd, exuding a simple reality: They’d been there all along, heard nearly every debate, and had now come to acknowledge the nearly completed result, nine years later.

It’s become the commonwealth’s newest and largest industrial wind development, 19 General Electric (GE) turbines populating Bakke Mountain in Florida and Crum Hill in Monroe. The completed project, expected to be turned on next week, according to Gov. Patrick’s press secretary, could pump out enough energy to power 10,000 homes.

“It’s very thrilling to see it finally come to fruition,” said Brown, a cousin of a landowner on whose property three of the Florida turbines are located.

For Brown and Oleson, who like three quarters of town residents, support the project, it was a significant event – just as it was for Gov. Deval Patrick, who identified the development in his address as the latest and greatest achievement of his administration’s initiative to marry environmental and energy policy.

“It took a long, long time to get here,” Patrick said. “… This progress happened by working together.”

Patrick said commonwealth residents share a “common
stake” in reducing carbon emissions and dependence on foreign oil, and his administration would continue to push wind, solar and clean energy building codes, legislatively and rhetorically. The turbine project is estimated to offset about 64 million pounds of carbon dioxide released by traditional electrical generation.

“It’s our generational responsibility,” he said.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan, who also spoke, said the administration’s initiative has turned smart environmental policy into “a good economic model.”

Oleson said he could speak to that, as he anticipates his town receiving $135,000 in annual payments in lieu of taxes from Iberdrola. The project is expected to generate about $6.8 million in tax revenue for the towns of Florida and Monroe. Lease payments to local landowners are expected to total $3 million.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Oleson said. “The thing that hurts the most is that there’s now been nine years of lost revenue for the town. … I’m looking forward to getting some returns out of it.”

But not all local residents are happy. Opponents who formed a group called Friends of Florida & Monroe say they worry the turbines will bring noise and possible adverse health effects, and lower the property values of nearby residents.

Over the past five years, the Patrick administration’s Environmental and Energy Alliance has helped create a 30-fold increase in wind energy, and, thanks in part to the 28.5 megawatt Hoosac Wind Project, it grew more in 2012 than every preceding year combined. By 2020, the administration’s goal states, the commonwealth’s wind power should be at 2,000 megawatts, three quarters of this located offshore.

Gov. Patrick’s administration aims to streamline the permitting process for municipalities by passing the Wind Siting Reform Act, a law that’s been on hold for years with the Legislature which would effectively eschew the sort of protracted legal battle that put the Hoosac Wind Project on standby for nine years.

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, spoke to the point in his address.

“I am excited for the day when the installation of green energy development isn’t a reason to have a press conference,” Downing said. “It [will be] the norm.”

Downing also thanked Gov. Patrick for his continued support of Berkshire County, about which Downing said “we were the green communities before we had a Green Communities Act [of 2008].”

Iberdrola Renewables built the turbines for more than $50 million and spent over $100 million when six years of legal expenses are taken into account. Construction of the turbines began in July.

Representatives from GE, Iberdrola and NStar also spoke at Monday’s event. NStar, per an agreement with Iberdrola, will be the sole purchaser of energy produced by the Hoosac Wind Project.

Mentioning the $4 million Iberdrola has already spent locally to see the project through and the continued benefits each town will continue to receive, Kevin Lynch, of policy and regulation with Iberdrola, said, “This is the gift that keeps on giving for the local community.”