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Irasburg selectmen question claims about Lowell wind project  

Credit:  Jennifer Hersey Cleveland, Staff Writer, Caledonian-Record, caledonianrecord.com 20 April 2011 ~~

After declining to take a position on the proposed Lowell wind power project, Irasburg selectmen sent letters to Green Mountain Power and Vermont Electric Cooperative questioning claims about the project’s cost-effectiveness and capacity.

The letter, penned by Dr. Ron Holland, town moderator, also requests the presence of representatives from each company at the next selectmen’s meeting May 2.

Holland’s research into the project has not turned up a formal cost-benefit analysis of the project, yet Green Mountain Power and Vermont Electric Co-op have claimed this project is the most cost-effective option for Vermonters, he said.

The town of Irasburg did not apply for party status before the Vermont Public Service Board.

Kingdom Community Wind Project proposes the construction of a 64-megawatt wind-generating facility, with 21 turbines along the Lowell Mountains ridge line. The project will require 16.9 miles of transmission lines.

Green Mountain Power, with partners Vermont Electric Cooperative and transmission company VELCO, has asked state regulators for a certificate of public good to erect the 459-foot turbines on the ridge line.

The Public Service Board, after hearing testimony, is expected to issue a ruling in May.

The letter states that while aspects of the project, such as the aesthetic impact, are matters of opinion, others are “subject to quantitative analysis.”

Holland provided testimony to the Public Service Board, in which he “describes features of the proposal and the economy that make it difficult for the proposal to meet the statutory requirements required for Public Service Board approval.”

Monday evening, Holland said claims of cost and capacity are “a bit of public relations fabric.”

“You bring up some good issues, Ron,” Chairman Randy Wells said after reading the letter.

The board stayed out of the conversation because the opinions of selectmen do not necessarily reflect the views of townspeople, Wells said.

“If it weren’t for the subsidies for their so-called green energy, they would never have got into it,” Selectman Roger Gagnon said.

Holland said he wanted selectmen to pose the questions, anticipating that “in a civilized state” the companies would respond to a letter from a governmental body.

With his own money, Holland hired an energy analyst, who discovered three irregularities that pose major concerns.

The questions stem primarily from documents submitted to the Public Service Board by Green Mountain Power’s financial analyst, Tony Kvedar.

In calculating the levelized cost of service, the letter states, the companies included revenue from the production tax credit as well as from renewable energy certificates. The industry standard is to not include income from the renewable energy certificates.

The letter asks, “If you have reduced the levelized cost of service by the revenue from the renewable energy certificates, what is the expected revenue over 25 years from the RECs?”

The 63-megawatt capacity is based on the turbines working all the time, but Holland told selectmen that turbine shut-downs would result in a capacity of about 28 percent of the 63 megawatts.

A national publication, “Resources for the Future,” says a minimum capacity factor of 32 percent, after the loss factor has been applied, is the minimum effectiveness standard to justify a project such as this one, Holland wrote in the letter.

Holland said at Monday night’s meeting the project costs the same whether it runs 1 percent or 100 percent of the time. His letter asks, “Is this not a low-capacity project?”

The letter also questions how the loss factor itself is calculated.

The loss factor of 5 percent assumes that turbines are running all the time, Holland said, which is “not a tenable assumption.”

The analyst Holland hired said every other wind project in a climate similar to Vermont’s experiences at least a 15 percent loss factor.

The Sheffield wind project has an anticipated loss factor of 24 percent, and Holland asked why one project would be vastly different from another.

The letter asks the values assigned to certain factors like topographic effect, icing and blade degradation, low temperature shutdown, high wind hysteresis, and other factors in determining the total loss factor.

If representatives of the two companies are unable to attend the next meeting of selectmen, the letter asks they submit answers to the questions by that date or give the board an anticipated date when answers might be available.

“We are not categorically opposed to the proposed project,” the letter says. “We are, however, quite concerned if the ridge line was permanently altered and there were more cost-effective alternatives available to the citizens of Vermont.”

[letter available at Energize Vermont ]

Source:  Jennifer Hersey Cleveland, Staff Writer, Caledonian-Record, caledonianrecord.com 20 April 2011

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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