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Berkshire Wind gets new owner

By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, June 13, 2008

HANCOCK -- The Berkshire Wind Project on Brodie Mountain has a new owner.

Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative Corp., a collaboration of 14 members of the nonprofit Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co., closed the $4 million sale yesterday, according to a statement issued after the closing.

Officials said they will move quickly to get the $25 million project back into construction. The venture to build the wind project had languished under the previous owner, Distributed Generation Systems Inc., because of a lawsuit filed by a neighboring development project, Silverleaf Resorts. The lawsuit since has been settled.

"This transaction represents a major commitment on the part of municipal utilities to develop a clean and renewable energy resource," said H. Bradford White, the president of the cooperative and manager of the Municipal Light Department in West Boylston.

The cooperative borrowed $8 million from PeoplesBank of Holyoke to finance the purchase and to begin the purchase process for the 10, 1.5-megawatt wind turbines. The purchase includes easements, permits, agreements, engineering documents and developed property.
The farm should generate enough power for 5,000 households.

The cooperative's municipal utility members include Ashburnham, Boylston, Groton, Holden, Hull, Ipswich, Marblehead, Paxton, Peabody, Shrewsbury, Sterling, Templeton, Wakefield and West Boylston. Essentially, cooperatives own power supplies and buy power in bulk for members.

The Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative group and Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co. have no members in Berkshire County.

Members of the cooperative agreed to buy the entire power output of the Berkshire Wind project in 2004. In 2007, the members decided to seek ownership of the project and to complete the financing and construction.

Under the previous owner, roads to the ridgeline have been cleared, and excavation for the wind turbine foundations has been started.

During the 10-year history of the project development, Distributed Generation Systems has invested more than $6 million, the company's president, Dale Osborne, said.

Barring unforeseen delays, the new owners have said that at least some of the turbines could be in operation by 2010.

"The critical item is the purchase of the turbines," said David Tuohey, a spokesman for the new owners. "Demand for turbines has gone through the roof, and they can be hard to come by. But we are determined to have them installed and operating by 2010."

"Pursuit of this project is consistent with our ongoing activities to explore and develop alternatives to fossil fuels for power generation," Berkshire Wind Power's White said. "The purpose of these activities is to diversify the municipal power supply, bring greater stability to power prices and help in addressing climate change issues."