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Utility’s estimate lifts wind project  

Credit:  By Christine Legere, Globe Correspondent, www.boston.com 12 December 2010 ~~

Kingston businesswoman Mary O’Donnell is one step closer to building a commercial wind farm on her gravel pit off Route 3.

O’Donnell said she has received a reasonable cost estimate from NStar to connect three wind power turbines she plans to erect on her land to the utility company’s power grid.

She said NStar’s estimate is $160,000 for the hookup, with a 25 percent margin for change when finalized. It came just days after she publicly urged Kingston selectmen to pursue a home-rule petition that would block the utility from charging either the town or local green energy-generating businesses fees for connection. If the Legislature grants the petition, she said, other towns would most likely follow suit.

The town of Kingston also has a pending wind and solar energy project on the former town landfill, next to O’Donnell’s 100-acre gravel pit. Both projects already have all the permits they need, and are now in the preconstruction phase when costs for connecting to the power grid are calculated.

O’Donnell will run her own operation, while Kingston selectmen recently signed 25-year lease contracts with Rockland’s D & C Construction to build and California-based Borrego to operate the wind turbine and solar field on the town’s tract. Those two companies will have to pick up the town’s connection fees.

NStar’s practice is to charge any developer, municipal or private, for hooking up to its grid and for upgrades to its infrastructure. The charges can sometimes be hefty.

O’Donnell and town officials had been concerned because of estimates provided for other energy projects. The town of Milton, for example, received an initial estimate of more than $1 million to connect a single turbine the town was going to run. After receiving that estimate, the town put the project on hold.

Milton’s high number prompted O’Donnell to ask Kingston officials to seek the home-rule petition from the Legislature to ban NStar from charging interconnection fees in the town. The utility protested, calling a petition to block fees “unconstitutional under both state and federal standards.’’ Fees would simply be passed on to customers, the company said.

Kingston’s town counsel warned the town could end up in a legal battle with the utility giant.

But O’Donnell said after her call for the home-rule petition became public, NStar sent her the cost estimate for connecting to the grid.

“I still think the town should file the home-rule petition,’’ she said. “That would create precedent for other places.’’

NStar spokesman Mike Durand said that the $160,000 estimate is simply what the company believes it will cost to connect O’Donnell’s wind turbines based on their location in relation to the utility’s infrastructure, and that pressure regarding a possible home-rule petition had nothing to do with the company’s calculations.

“We simply estimated in bullet points all the work that has to be done for interconnection,’’ Durand said.

D & C Construction vice president Duncan Peterson, who previously called the interconnection fees “a huge wild card’’ for green energy projects, said he plans to apply to connect the wind turbine planned for the Kingston landfill within the next two or three weeks. The estimate for O’Donnell’s project was encouraging, he said.

Kingston selectmen had decided to hold off on pursuing the home-rule petition.

But they didn’t rule out the possibility of pursuing it in the future.

Selectman Mark Beaton, who chairs the town’s Green Energy Committee, said his board will continue to wait and watch.

“Right now, NStar is playing nice, so we’ll play nice,’’ he said.

Source:  By Christine Legere, Globe Correspondent, www.boston.com 12 December 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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