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Massachusetts Gov. Sees Opening of Berkshire Wind Farm

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick joined state and local officials in the Northern Berkshires to mark the opening of the largest on-shore wind project in the Commonwealth. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

The Hoosac Wind Project, a 19-turbine industrial wind farm located in the Berkshire towns of Florida and Monroe was celebrated by state and local officials, General Electric, Iberdrola Renewables, and Governor Deval Patrick.

The Governor talked about the significance of wind energy for Massachusetts’ proposed clean energy future, set forth by 2008’s Green Communities Act. In 2009, Patrick proposed that by 2020, the Commonwealth would generate 2,000 MW of wind-powered electricity.  

The turbines, operated by Portland, OR based Iberdrola, promises to generate 28.5 MW of electricity, which was said to be enough to power 10,000 homes annually. Boston-based NStar will be purchasing the power generated by the turbines manufactured by General Electric. Vice President of Renewable Energy at GE Vic Abate spoke at the press conference about the size and power of the wind turbines.

Those who spokes spent much of their time discussing the importance of local involvement and planning in the development of the wind farm. As part of the deal, the towns of Florida and Monroe will recieve an estimated $6.8 million over the life of the project in tax revenue. State Senator Benjamin Downing, who represents the towns in the legislature also spoke at the event.

But the construction of wind turbines to meet the Governor’s 2020 goal remains controversial among many in the Berkshires. Mike Fairneny, a local resident who joined protestors representing the group Wind Wise, said that he is worried that the turbines located just a half-mile from his home will do much more harm than good.

Fairneny said he’s worried about audible sound and also low-frequency vibrations causing what’s known as “wind turbine syndrome”, a name given to a series of health effects associated with wind turbines by Dr. Nina Pierpont. Fairneny also said he’s concerned about decreasing property values, and the loss of his home.

The permitting process for the Hoosac Wind Project took 9 years. After the press conference, Gov. Patrick said that he would like to see legislative action to help with the permitting.

The Wind Siting Reform Act, also known as the Wind Act, failed to pass through the legislature last year. Advocates against the bill have said that the it would have taken siting control away from local residents.

Recently the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved NSTAR purchasing agreement for the Cape Wind project, a planned 420-megawatt off shore wind farm in Nantucket Sound.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.