The following editorial appeared in the North Adams, Mass., Transcript on Jan. 16:

Advocates of wind power are likely jumping up and down after Gov. Deval Patrick set a goal on Tuesday of the state generating 2,000 megawatts of electricity by wind turbines by the year 2020, but they might want to curb their excitement.

The state’s track record in getting wind projects up and running – or even approved – is hardly impressive, and there is little evidence that is likely to change in the coming years. Most of the projects “in the pipeline” – roughly 300 megawatts’ worth – have stalled over environmental concerns, political lobbying and worries that the turbines will spoil views.

In the Berkshires, a whopping one – count it, one – turbine has been built, “Zephyr” at Jiminy Peak, which supplies 1.5 megawatts to power roughly 70 percent of operations at the ski resort.

Projects in Hancock, Florida and Monroe have been on hold for years and still face staunch local opposition – and potential problems getting the turbines supplied, even after all permitting is complete. The Berkshire Natural Resources Council, meanwhile, is moving to buy up and protect ridge lines that have been identified as having the best potential for wind power.

The best hope for a large-scale wind farm in Massachusetts remains the Cape Wind Project off Nantucket Sound – 130 turbines that would generate 468 megawatts, or enough to power 70 percent of the homes on Cape Cod and the Islands. But that project remains stalled and faces one of the toughest opponents imaginable in Ted Kennedy, the senior senator from Massachusetts, who doesn’t like the idea of 230-foot tall turbines despoiling his sailing grounds.

The state might be better served by pursuing smaller wind projects, not unlike Jiminy’s, throughout the commonwealth, while actively exploring other means of alternative energy, including hydropower, geothermal power, biomass and solar power, all of which, arguably, have less impact on the environment and are more politically palatable.

The Transcript has endorsed the Cape Wind Project and believes most of the state’s wind power should be produced off the coast, where the winds are strongest and the environmental impact would not be as severe. Some locations in the Berkshires and Western Massachusetts could be plausible, but the state has not come up with a comprehensive plan to site turbines and ensure their connection to the grid would not be disruptive to wildlife, wetlands and scenic attractions.

Gov. Patrick’s goal of 2,000 megawatts by 2020 – enough to supply power for about 800,000 homes, or roughly 10 percent of the state’s energy needs – is laudable but simply unrealistic. If half that number is achieved, Massachusetts will have surpassed all reasonable expectations.


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