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Inching forward in Massachusetts

As wind is poised for development in New England, acceptance of the technology is gaining ground in Massachusetts. State energy officials are now willing to promote wind actively, says Stephen Remen, head of the state's Division of Energy Resources. And there are indications wind may really take root and burgeon in the New England state -- projections suggest there will be a market for, at the most, almost 700 MW of wind by the year 2010.

Remen, the state's top energy official, says that renewables could provide 35% of the new capacity needed in Massachusetts over the next decade -- and that the majority of renewables will be wind. Although the state currently has an energy surplus, predictions are that it may need as much as 4000 MW in additional capacity as early as 1997 or 1998 to offset the closing of an oil fired plant. "Wind fits the bill," Remen says. It makes good economic sense, good environmental sense, and reduces the state's reliance on imported fuels.

In 1993, the state government announced it will reduce costs by promoting renewables in Massachusetts, which has a population of about six million. The state energy plan suggests incentives for acquiring renewables and that each utility should develop a so-called green Request for Proposals (RFP). Furthermore, state energy officials should work with the Department of Public Utilities to quantify the external costs of power production.

In fact, the latest and most conservative state base-line projections are that: by the year 2001, there will be a market for 315 MW (average) maximum of new capacity, of which 196 MWa or 62% will be renewables and 72 MWa wind; by the year 2002 there will be a market for a cumulative total of 690 MWa maximum of new capacity, of which 228 MWa or 33% will be renewables and 90 MWa wind; and that there will be a market for a cumulative total of 3450 MWa maximum by the year 2010, of which 490 MWa or 14% will be renewables and 233 MWa wind. An average megawatt for wind power is about one-third of one MW of installed capacity.

The state's renewable energy project manager Nils Bolgen, however, stresses that the figures are tentative. They are the result of a study done for the Division of Energy Resources. The state has not specifically identified potential wind sites or possible obstacles to wind development.

Yet although no utility scale projects are yet going ahead, there are several possibilities. Green Mountain Power has chosen Florida in northwestern Massachusetts as a possibility for a 7 MW wind farm, which will probably be the state's first. Bolgen also says that Deer Island in Boston Harbour, near the airport, will be monitored soon and may support a couple of utility scale wind turbines in the foreseeable future. An RFP for monitoring is expected to be issued soon. He adds: "Other than that, I'd like to see something utility scale on Nantucket." He cautions that Nantucket is only a small island and could probably only support 2 MW of installed capacity. "But I hope that's conservative," he says. In the near future, a feasibility study of Nantucket for wind to power a solid waste processing facility will be funded. And at Yarmouth on Cape Cod wind resource measuring is "very likely" with a view to providing electricity for a landfill and waste water treatment site.

Energy officials are also evaluating the wind resource at various coastal sites in the state. The other potentially significant resource is in hilly central and western Massachusetts. Over the past two years, feasibility studies have been done at Salisbury Beach State Reservation and near Rockport at Halibut Point State Park in the northeast, and at Fairhaven on the south coast. State energy officials are now considering ideas for projects for the Salisbury site. At Halibut Point, a renewables education and demonstration centre that would include a 10 kW residential-size turbine is tentatively planned within the next year or two, says Bolgen. Data from the centre would be used in school science projects.

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