North Adams Transcript, 12/8/10

Berkshire Wind Project nears completion

North Adams Transcript, 12/8/10

HANCOCK — Wind turbines atop Brodie Mountain are expected to begin generating electricity in mid-February 2011, according to officials with the Berkshire Wind Project.

The project’s developer, The Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative Corp., said in a news release late last week that the project’s 10 wind turbines have been erected and the remaining construction work is expected to be completed in about two months.

“There has certainly been some significant progress since we restarted construction in October, and we are very much looking forward to the commercial operation of the project,” Dave Tuohey, spokesman for the cooperative, said Tuesday. The cooperative is a collaboration of 14 cities and towns in eastern and central Massachusetts in the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co.

The wind turbines were completed the week of Nov. 21, and the remaining work includes wiring the turbines together, making the electrical connection to a substation, and then connecting to the power grid, Tuohey said.

While construction of the wind turbines began in September 2009, it stopped a month later when the state Land Court issued an injunction after a lawsuit was filed against the project by Silverleaf Resorts. The Dallas-based company owns property in New Ashford abutting the project. In September, the cooperative and Silverleaf reached a settlement.

Besides the project nearing completion, cooperative officials are also excited about it receiving A-level credit ratings. “What that will do is minimize the interest costs on the debt to be issued for the project,” Tuohey said.

The cooperative will have to take out $66 million in bonds, which will pay for the entire cost of the project, he said. The project was originally projected to cost $46 million, but that amount increased with the work stoppage, according to project officials.

The bonds will be a combination of Build America Bonds, which are available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and traditional, tax-exempt bonds, he said. The bonds will be paid back over 20 years, he said.

The cooperative’s utilities are exempt from Massachusetts’ renewable portfolio standard.

Tuohey said the pay-back on the bonds will be divided between the communities of the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co. with some municipalities paying more than others depending on the size of their shares in the project.