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Mansfield catching its ‘First Wind’

MANSFIELD – The town will soon be getting some of its electricity from the wind – at a bargain.

Mansfield has joined a group of Massachusetts municipal utilities that will buy a percentage of the energy generated by a wind farm run by Boston-based renewable energy company First Wind.

Under a 25-year, fixed-price contract, First Wind said it will sell almost 75 percent of the power generated at its Hancock Wind project near Ellsworth, Maine, to the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co.

Municipal Wholesale will then resell the power at a low rate to 17 of its member municipal utilities, including Mansfield Electric.

The 51-megawatt wind project, scheduled to be in operation next year, will feature 17 turbines producing 3 megawatts, each.

“The Hancock Wind project will deliver affordable, pollution-free electricity to customers in these communities,” First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor said. “We look forward to moving toward construction on this project.”

Town Manager William Ross said that when First Wind presented its offer, Mansfield jumped on board because other communities were “snapping up” the proposal.

Boylston, Chicopee, Groton, Holden, Holyoke, Ipswich, Marblehead, Paxton, Peabody, Russell, Shrewsbury, Sterling, Templeton, Wakefield, West Boylston and Westfield have all joined the consortium.

Ross said that he and other town officials liked the idea because the risk is low.

“The agreement doesn’t require an investment from the town, and we will only pay for power as it’s generated,” Ross said. “So if the wind doesn’t blow, we don’t pay for it.”

He did not have the price rate at hand Tuesday, but Ross said the cost is “attractive.”

And, with the price of natural gas on the rise, he said using clean energy will save residents money, even if it’s only a small part of the power supply.

Ross said, too, that the town is always looking for ways to reduce its carbon footprint, and Mansfield’s share of the wind output will add to its green energy portfolio.

“It’s really a positive arrangement all around,” he said.