By Beth Daley, Globe Staff
A new report out by the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs shows just how much renewable power could be generated on state properties – especially wind farms in forests that are already being used to harvest trees or frequented by snowmobilers.
Some 946 megawatts of power - enough to power some 300,000 homes - could potentially be built on ridges and windy regions on state lands across the state, including October Mountain State Forest in Lee. While the report warns that there will have to be great public discussion about which projects should be built, officials are ahead of the curve in thinking creatively about ways to embed renewable power into the state's infrastructure.
A wind turbine at Mass Maritime. There may be many more turbines on state lands in the future. (Solar Design Associates)
Ian Bowles, the state’s energy secretary said the report will serve “as a point of departure for a public discussion about how best this Commonwealth can use its public resources to protect the environment, conserve its natural heritage and meet its clean energy needs for future generations.” A letter he wrote to lawmakers about the report points out that “today, environmental stewardship has taken on new meaning,” and “we are duty bound to take every appropriate opportunity to replace fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy, and it would be an abrogation of our public responsibility not to consider the potential resource on state lands for meeting the environmental challenges of the 21st century.”
There are more than12 megawatts of renewable energy projects on state-owned property now but much more is already in the works to be built: Wind turbines are promised at everything from Mass Turnpike’s Blandford rest area to the North Central Correctional Institution in Gardner. In addition, more than $25 million has been saved through energy efficiency at state facilities. Solar installations on rooftops of state-owned buildings could meet 13 percent of Governor Deval Patrick’s 2017 goal of 250 megawatts of solar power, the report notes.
There is bound to be controversy over the forest land issue. Aesthetic concerns prompted the Vermont governor to ban large-scale wind turbines on state lands there and continue to fuel opposition to the 130-turbine project in Nantucket Sound.
State officials, of course, don't believe everywhere is right for wind - there are lands reserved only for conservation, hiking and ecological benefit and should remain that way. But they note that Massachusetts owns lots of land that is more heavily used and where wind farms may fit in perfectly – and provide desperately needed cash for host communities.
“I can’t speak for all foresters….but we often want lands to pay its way,’’ said David Kittredge,” a forester based at the University of Massachusetts Amherst when told of the plan. “If forest lands can contribute in some way to energy independence…that is neat.”
Here is the report and below is a map from the state on existing, planned and potential wind sites.
What do you think?
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