image description
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
Print Story | Email Story

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."
13 Comments welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to

Department Fire Services: Preventing and Dealing with Frozen Pipes

STOW - State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said, "We’re about to get some bitter cold weather which brings the risk of frozen pipes. It is important keep a bad situation from getting any worse; many people cause fires trying to thaw frozen pipes."

Tips for Preventing Frozen Pipes

  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the water drip from faucets with pipes in outside walls. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing. The temperature of the running water is above freezing.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  •  Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature day and at night. Don’t lower the temperature at night during the cold spell. It might raise the heating bill a little bit, but can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home or business set to a temperature no lower than 55ºF.
  • Shut off outside water.


To Thaw Frozen Pipes

  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Locate the area of the water pipe that might be frozen. The most likely places are pipes running against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt more ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, or wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame devices. A blowtorch can make water in a frozen pipe boil and cause the pipe to explode. All open flames in homes present a serious fire danger, as well as a severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
  • Be careful using space heaters to warm up areas near pipes. Don’t overload circuits. Plug space heaters directly into wall outlets. Try not to use extension cords but if you must, make sure it is rated for the appliance, and only use one. Heat producing appliances need stronger extension cords than lamps.
  • Remember not to leave the door of a gas oven open; it will produce large amounts of carbon monoxide.
  • Be sure there are working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of the home.

"Fortunately the weather will warm up in the next few days which will help frozen pipes thaw and prevent additional pipes from freezing," Ostroskey said.


Protect Sprinklers Systems

In order to protect sprinkler systems, check on your building during to the cold snap, especially if you don’t have a low temperature alarm. Make sure that all portions of the building remain heated to at least 40°F and not exposed to freezing conditions. Setting the thermostat higher at least 50-60 °F during this cold snap will help make sure pipes in concealed areas stay warm.

View Full Story

More Stories