By Susan Spencer TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
Large windmills started spinning last year in Gardner, but for the rest of the region, 2011 was a mixed bag for wind energy projects.
In Central Massachusetts, several community wind projects are in the study stage. A few, including commercial developments, have been at least temporarily sidelined by lack of wind, lack of long-term purchase agreements, or local opposition.
In Gardner, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections prison and Mount Wachusett Community College each began operating two 1.65-megawatt turbines in 2011, joining four other existing community-scale projects at: Nature's Classroom in Charlton, Princeton Municipal Light and Water Plant, Holy Name Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Worcester and Templeton Municipal Light and Water Plant, on land owned by Narragansett Regional School District.
The local picture looks a little different from the milestones reached by wind power nationally, according to the American Wind Energy Association. In Iowa and South Dakota, wind energy accounted for 20 percent of all electricity; the U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior streamlined processes to move significant offshore wind energy projects forward; and the cost of wind turbines dropped by as much as one-third over the previous two years.
Worcester County's gently rolling hills and river valleys are an obstacle for major wind energy development, according to Kate Plourd, communications manager at Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.
Worcester Telegram & Gazette - telegram.com - Turbine projects in the area hit turbulence