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Ten wind turbines 390 feet tall from ground to blade tip will offset some 1.17 million barrels of oil.

Berkshire Wind Project Transforms Air Into Energy

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Environmental Secretary Richard K. Sullivan, Gov. Deval Patrick and Meredith Cochran get ready to cut a green ribbon to dedicate the Berkshire Wind Project on Brodie Mountain. More photos here.
HANCOCK, Mass. — State officials and alternative energy advocates and contractors clustered on a windswept mountaintop Thursday to dedicate a project 13 years in the making that will double the state's wind energy output.

The Berkshire Wind Power Project of 10 GE wind-turbines along the Taconic ridgeline between Routes 7 and 43 will generate enough energy to power 6,000 homes.

It's a long way from the single coal stove that heated the family farm decades ago, said Meredith Cochran, who owns part of the land on which the wind turbines were built.

"All the way from 19th-century charcoal to 21st-century wind, the farm still remains an income- producing farm," said Cochran, as the turbine on the highest point on Brodie Mountain swung more than 200 feet above her. She spoke of her parents' commitment to the environment and the organic practices she and her husband had continued. "My parents would have loved it, utilizing new technologies with an existing resource — wind. New products to support the farm and help diminish our country's dependency on corporate energy sources."

The project began in 1998 as a private venture but moved in fits and starts as it was bogged down by funding problems and appeals by environmentalists; the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co., a public utility serving municipal utilities in 14 towns and cities, bought the assets in 2008. After a eight-month setback because of a federal lawsuit by adjoining Silverleaf Resorts Inc., which is building condominiums on the former Brodie ski area, the newly created Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative Corp. issued a $65 million bond in 2010 to complete the 15 megawatt project.

Only one turbine was spinning on Thursday but the other nine are expected to come online by the end of the month, inching the state closer to Gov. Deval Patrick's goal of 2,000 megawatts of wind and 150 Mw of solar energy being produced in the state. Brodie is considered a prime inland location for wind power, rating 6 on a scale of 7 with a 40 percent capacity.

"I'm excited about this project; I'm excited about what it portends for the future," said Patrick, who spoke during an oddly calm break in the blustery air. "There are opportunities here for us to show a whole new level of environmental stewardship, opportunities here for us to generate our own power and to free ourselves not just from the dependence on foreign oil and gas but from the price spikes that are an inherent part of that market."

Richard K. Sullivan, secretary of Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said the state spends more than $20 billion every year in energy and 80 percent, or $18 billion, not only goes outside the state, it goes outside the country. Projects such as Berkshire Wind are creating a home-grown market for energy needs, he said, adding that Patrick was the only governor with "the vision to put energy and environment in the same secretariat, understanding that good clean energy decisions were also good environmental decisions."

Later, Patrick reiterated a point made by Sullivan on the 65 percent in job growth in green energy over the last few years. "Because we have made a point of cultivating that industry and it's an industry that makes a lot of sense in Massachusetts because of the concentration of brainpower and our tradition of innovation and invention," he said. "It builds on technology and technicial capability that we have here right now."

Berkshire Wind is currently the largest completed wind project. Two others, both private, have also been years in development and have had difficulty overcoming zoning, permitting, appeals and lawsuits. The Minuteman Project is at a standstill over wetlands permitting and buyers for its power; Hoosac Wind in Florida and Monroe has begun construction after seven years and, when completed, will be double the size of Berkshire Wind.

Patrick said it was important to pass a wind power siting bill currently in the Legislature. "We need the wind siting bill ... you know they said this project is 13 years in the making. It shouldn't take 13 years — that adds to costs. It means we are that much longer in breaking ourselves of dependency on oil and gas and we need alternatives," he said. "We can have wind siting reform that respects local interests and local control and that's what we're trying to get."

Cochran, whose family was battered by lawsuits and calls for boycotts of their Christmas tree farm, said landowners should have a "predictable and reasonable number of permitting and hoops and hurdles."

The towns of Lanesborough and Hancock were very supportive of the project, said Ronald C. DeCurzio, chief executive officer of MMWEC, but added that being a public concern had advantages in permitting and pushing through projects of this nature.

"Public power does have the ability to act quickly, to get financing quickly, and they are on the forefront of reducing our carbon footprint," he said. Two of the participating municipalities, Hull and Leverett, began pursuing wind power as early as 1985. 

Sullivan asked Lanesborough and Hancock to continue to lead the way by showing renewable energy "can be developed safely and responsibly."
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Pittsfield Council Rejects Petition Against Magnesium Chloride

By Brittany Polito


The City Council on Tuesday shot down Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick’s attempt to block possible purchases of magnesium chloride in response to the poor road conditions during the pre-Christmas storm

Kronick said that there were two major mistakes made in the city’s response to Storm Elliot: not pre-treating the roads with rock salt or putting out an emergency alert about the situation. 


On the agenda was also a petition from Councilor At Large Earl Persip III requesting a cost-benefit analysis of obtaining the equipment necessary to use magnesium chloride, which is effectively used by the state to pre-treat roads for snow.  


It will be taken up at a later date along with a full report on the storm from Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales. 


Kronick feels that magnesium chloride would have “done nothing” to change the outcome of the snow event and saw it as an attempt to hide a mistake. 


“The counselors are proposing to raise your taxes people with a new budget request for purchasing equipment and salt. They are not requesting a cost analysis, cost-benefit analysis, not even verification that the rock salt would have been effective that day and we won't even know because they didn't try but the evidence says that it would have worked,” Kronick said. 


“So the purpose of their request to purchase equipment is to cover the trail of the Mayor’s embarrassment for not one: pre-treating the roads and tow: issuing an emergency alert to let the public know that the roads are unsafe to drive on.” 


Though roads are usually pre-treated with rock salt, it was not done during this storm because the rain that came before the snow would have washed it away, Morales told iBerkshires after the storm. 


Up until this storm, the city couldn’t justify the acquisition of magnesium chloride or the material to dispense it. 


Councilors were equally appalled at the road conditions but felt the petition was premature and even inflammatory.  


It wound up being filed after failed motions to table and approve.  Ward 3 Councilor Kevin Sherman, Ward 5 Councilor Patrick Kavey, and Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio were absent. 


“We all are appalled, disappointed in what happened here,” Ward 4 Councilor James Conant said. 


“There’s no question that public confidence in this operation is at an all-time low and so I think another couple of weeks, make the report, let’s hear what’s produced out of this event, then we can revisit.” 


Persip explained that he petitioned to inquire about the chemical and get the cost of it, branding it as information that the council should know when they discuss what happened during the storm. 


“I am too appalled at the response.  I can agree that there should have been a snow emergency, there should have been a phone call, we agree on those things,” he said. 


“But to accuse us of raising taxes at this meeting right after the tax bill comes out I find interesting, and then not wanting all the information.” 


He added that Kronick’s talk about his petition not being “political posturing” was nonsense. 


Since the fiscal 2023 budget has already been approved, Persip asked the councilor where he does not want to see allocation for magnesium chloride appear and Kronick clarified that he doesn’t want it on the fiscal 2024 budget. 


Councilor At Large Pete White said that the council’s job s to look at every issue as it comes before them and that the request is for information only. 


“I will not support this or petitions like this to just blank and say we’re not going to fund things because we didn’t like what happened without actually seeing data and facts before us,” he added. 


Warren called the petition a “fool’s errand.” 


“The fact of the matter was, (Persip) wants more information to help make a proper decision,” he said. 


“That’s what I want so I’m not going to make any decision about buying not buying equipment, not buying other materials until we get a report.” 


Ward 6 Councilor Dina Lampiasi pointed to Kronick’s presentation of graphs showing the weather conditions during the storm and called the approach “dishonest” and a “misrepresentation.”  During the event, she compared the conditions outside to the weather app on her phone and found them contradictory. 


Councilor At Large Karen Kalinowsky said the petition was not clarified enough. 


A handful of people expressed displeasure with the way that the snowstorm was handled and rising taxes during open microphone. 


Kronick took the stand and read a communication from a longtime Massachusetts Department of Transportation employee who he would not name. 


The letter expressed concern about the Department of Public Work’s leadership and claimed that salt is the best option for safe road conditions —even when there is rain before the snow. 


Persip observed that when people complain about their taxes being raised, the bigger complaint is that things aren’t getting done. 


He heard more complaints about the storm than about the tax bills. 


“It's not just about the dollars and cents all the time,” Persip said. 


“It's about finding solutions where people feel safe, they can go out for the first time, it's the holiday when people are actually visiting their families and it was unsafe.”


Also on the agenda was a petition from Council President Peter Marchetti, White, and Persip requesting a full report on the issue that resulted in poor plowing conditions over the holiday weekend, which will be taken up at a later date. 


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