Gov. Deval Patrick said state lawmakers 'set the framework' for allowing a project like the Hoosac Wind Project to move forward.
FLORIDA, Mass. — Gov. Deval Patrick wasn't just "noting the future" with the completion of the state's largest wind farm but "shaping it."
The Hoosac Wind Project on Bakke Mountain in Florida and Crum Hill in Monroe is nearly complete with 19 turbines expected to generate a combined 28.5 megawatts of electricity — estimated to provide enough energy for 10,000 homes.
The project by Iberdrola Renewables continues the Patrick administration's goal of creating 2,000 megawatts of wind power by the year 2020.
"When I first took office there were three turbines in the commonwealth and three megawatts of wind energy capacity throughout the state," Patrick said at the commissioning of the turbines on Monday. "Since then, Massachusetts has experienced one of the fastest rates of wind energy development in the whole nation. Our state will surpass 100 megawatts of wind energy installed by the end of this year."
Hoosac Wind surpasses what had been the state's largest wind facility to date: Berkshire Wind, a few mountain throws to the southwest. The 10-turbine, 15 MW Brodie Mountain project in Hancock went online in 2011 after nearly 13 years of planning, problems and lawsuits.
The Hoosac Wind project has taken nine years from its initial proposal to Monday's event with local and state officials. It was held up with litigation after abutters and environmentalist groups fought wetlands permits in 2005. That lawsuit lasted until the end of 2010. The special permits were extended twice by the towns, who had supported the project since its 2003 proposal.
Patrick said the key to turning the idea into an actuality took partnerships with the state and municipal governments, the private sector and advocates. The state has worked along "all of the lines that divide us" to come together behind the common cause of reducing the carbon footprint and the state's dependence on fossil fuel, he said.
Patrick said lawmakers "created that framework" needed for this project to move forward.
"Several pieces of legislation created the framework for this and other projects. The Green Communities Act, which was signed in 2009, the Global Warming Solutions Act, there is another bill I signed last summer, which enabled the long-term contract that makes the financing for these projects work," Patrick said.
Jim Hunt, vice president of regulatory affairs and community relations for Northeast Utilities, the company purchasing the power from Iberdrola Renewables, said if it wasn't for the Green Communities Act and the long-term contracting, the project would not have been "smart for our customers."
"Our clean energy future is being realized here today with this project and so many others across the Commonwealth," Hunt said.
The contract is the "gift that keeps on giving," said Kevin Lynch, vice president of external affairs for developer Iberdrola. Construction of the farm created 140 jobs and led to the spending of nearly $4 million in the local economy, he said. From now on, the company will be paying the taxes and leasing from the landowners, he said.
During the course of the 20-year lease, officials are expecting about $6.8 million in tax revenue for the towns and $3 million in lease payments.
But while there were cheers all around for the speakers, outside of the speaking event Florida resident Michael Fairneny and others held signs in protest hoping that the project would eventually be shut down.
The celebration was protested by activist groups opposing wind project. Michael Fairneny, of Florida, was joined with protestors from as far away as Cape Cod.
"You can see the wind turbines right from my house and I am worried that I'm certainly going to hear them," Fairneny said. "It's not only audible sound, it's inaudible sound, low-frequency sound that has been wreaking havoc with people across the state."
Fairneny has health concerns but his bigger worry is that the environment near his home of more than 30 years has been altered.
"I wanted to leave this for my grandkids and their grandkids. I'm worried about having to move out of my own home. Another concern is the property values. Most of my accumulated wealth is in my home," Fairneny said as he began to tear up.
One Falmouth resident confronted the governor as he arrived shouting "Falmouth needs a better governor" and pleading for Patrick to shut the whole project down. (The town of Falmouth's two turbines have caused repeated complaints.)
Answering the critics, Patrick said he understands that not every project is "right" for everyone but the Hoosac Wind Project is "great."
"We believe that alternative is right but not in every place. There is an issue with siting and we've tried to get bills through the Legislature that would create regularity and predictability around that siting and these people opposed it," Patrick said. "Not every project is going to be right. This one is great and it is very enthusiastically welcomed by the community and yet it was still held up for six or seven years by litigation."
Also speaking at the commissioning were Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard Sullivan, President of Iberdrola Renewables Martin Mugica, Vic Abate of General Electric Renewable Energy — which built the turbines — state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, and state Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield.
Ed Bond, CEO of the construction firm Bond, which installed the turbines, presented Patrick with two hard hats to commemorate the occasion.
Gov. Deval Patrick speaks about the state's expanded use of renewable energy :
State Sen. Benjamin Downing's remarks about the Hoosac Wind Project:
Update: Minor edits for spelling & clarification on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012.
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