7Investigates: MBTA Wind Turbines

With so many problems plaguing the T, it’s going to take billions to fix it all. So why is the state spending precious dollars on wind turbines?

Derailments, delays, and disgust.

“Quite a few times, I’ve been close to late or late to my first classes,” said Danaya Chandler, who rides the Red Line on a regular basis.

It’s been a bumpy few months for T riders. And as the MBTA spins its wheels trying to fix and upgrade its aging tracks and trains, 7 Investigates found it’s also trying to spin two wind turbines – one in Bridgewater, and another in Kingston.

Both turbines were paid for and are operated by the MBTA. They cost a combined $5.3 million – all of that, taxpayer money, and about half of it coming directly from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

The turbines are part of an effort to reduce the MBTA’s reliance on fossil fuels. But not everyone thinks that’s money well spent.

“Huge waste of money,” said Bruce Maclay, who lives near the turbine in Bridgewater and drives by it several times every week. “I’ve never seen the blades turning. Never.”

Maclay reached out to 7 Investigates, and we discovered the turbines are producing far less power than they were supposed to.

The MBTA predicted the turbine in Kingston would provide most of the power needed to run the commuter rail station there. But we found it’s generated 38 percent less than it was supposed to. MassDOT said that’s partly due to mechanical issues, which it said were fixed last year.

The turbine in Bridgewater only got up and running in April, more than two years after it was supposed to start working. And the MBTA said the device that measures how much power it’s generating still hasn’t been installed.

The decision to put a turbine in Bridgewater in the first place still blows Maclay’s mind.

“This is like putting a boat ramp in the desert,” Maclay said.

MassDOT defended its decision to put up the turbines, saying in a statement, “In light of the fact that energy generated from wind can fluctuate (unlike energy generated from fossil fuels), the Kingston wind turbine’s output appears to be less than what was initially estimated back in 2011. Despite that, investments in clean energy infrastructure like the Kingston wind turbine are projects that support the T’s commitment to clean energy initiatives and help create economic opportunities.”

MassDOT also said the turbines will still save taxpayers money in the long run.

But others said it’s leaving the T’s many other needs twisting in the wind.

“There are way too many issues going on for that much money to be spent for that and not toward making sure that we all get to where we’re going on time,” Chandler said.

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