IRASBURG – Vermont Electric: Co-op CEO David Hallquist admitted the Kingdom Community Wind project’s impact on the Lowell Mountain ridgeline’s viewshed was an unknown. He appeared before the Irasburg Select Board Monday night to respond to its questions about the project’s costs, capacity and loss factors.
“We don’t really fully understand the impact on the viewshed,” Hallquist told the 50 Irasburg, Craftshury and other area residents who attended the meeting. “We have to rely on the State of Vermont to set the policies.”
Trust the Public Service Board to uphold the public good and the public process to take its course were the repeated mantras From Hallquist and Robert Dostis of Green Mountain Power. “Cost effectiveness” was echoed and re-echoed multiple times, but challenged by Town Moderator Dr. Robert Holland.
“It (KCW) is the lowest price of renewable energy to meet the SPEED (Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development Program),” Hallquist said in defending the coop’s partnering with GMP. “It is about a public process and trusting the process.”
Hallquist projected the cost to be 10 cents/kwh while meeting a portion of the SPEED’s goals as enacted by the Vermont Legislature in 2005. Although he complimented Holland’s report, “The Cost Effectiveness of Utility Scale Wind Turbines on Vermont Ridgelines,” he said the findings were flawed. (http:/energizevermont.org)
Hallquist faulted the report as dealing with policy options to reduce carbon footprints. The report didn’t include the total life cycle of the KCW project; makes flawed assumptions in estimating the levelized cost of power and capacity factors. Comparing long-term levelized costs of energy from the KCW project to a price at one point in the market is an “apples to oranges” comparison, he noted.
Holland had testified before the Public Service Board but his report was completed after the KCW hearings concluded. He said neither the PSB nor Department of Public Service asked what is the cost per metric ton of CO2 avoidance for this project, which is a requirement. His analysis determined the KCW project to be 12 times more costly than alternative options in reducing CO2 emissions, to have less capacity factor and a greater loss factor than projected, and to cost closer to 11.6 cents/kwh. The capacity factor of the KCW project is estimated to be 28.42 percent over 25 years, which is lower than the industry standard of 32 percent minimum.
Holland questioned the KCW project having a low 5 percent loss factor when the Sheffield project, down the street, has a 24 percent loss factor.
Board chair Randall Wells permitted only Irasburg residents/taxpayers to speak. No board members asked any questions. Wells held tight reins on the meeting and admonished someone for accusing the Agency of Natural Resources as having been bought off.
Residents who stood to defend the mountains were unanimous in their objections to the KCW project and were applauded. Their understanding of cost effectiveness dealt with decimating the natural environment and viewshed, leveling an iconic ridgeline, and destroying property values while blighting the landscape with industrial wind towers and shipping the power to New York City. Questions were asked about the impact on bald eagles, migratory birds, bats, and wildlife.
One resident said, “I look around and see farmers, mechanics, loggers, Alpaca farmer, a goat farmer – they don’t have 401K’s. They are trying to make a living, and the only asset is their land and viewshed.
“You took the guts right out of this town,” he said as he asked what the towers would do to their land values.
Resident Tom Stelter asked if the town could still seek party status in the process. He was told no, it’s too late. He said the 400-foot towers would dominate the landscape and ruefully noted after the top of Jay Peak was blown off for a ski resort, it was decided that was illegal.
“You should think about this before you put up these monstrosities,” he said to a round of audience applause.
“Our job is to carry out the public policy,” Hallquist said, referring to SPEED goals and the PSB process. “Wind has the lowest carbon footprint of all options.”
“We depend on the public process to sort this out. My first legal responsibility is to keep the lights on and to follow the public process. I have to trust the public process in Vermont.”
The project comes from a lack of a strategic energy policy, nationally and on the state level, Holland maintains. Despite millions of dollars being spent, CO2 emissions from the electric sector is not leveling off, current policies are a failure, and no impact on global warming is discernible, he said.
“We are suffering from a lack of an integrated energy policy,” he said. “We are pitted against ourselves.”
People pay extra money to reduce the carbon footprint and are getting nothing in return, current policy continues to sustain bad behaviors, he added. Geothermal heat pumps would create a savings of $36/per metric ton in CO2 avoidance, Holland noted; the KCW project at costing $295/per metric ton of carbon avoidance is 12 times more expensive than the “average alternative energy project.”
Craftsbury resident Steve Wright observed two cost effective analyses were going on: “GMP and VEC undertook how to get the cheapest power to customers and framed its construction model taking into account the building and operating of a facility. Rob Holland is talking about a much more comprehensive approach to energy planning.
“I wanted to hear the utility people tell me what that mountain is worth,” Wright said. “Holland’s analyses didn’t include that specific. You would have to put a value on the landscape and add the cost of major destruction to the area biologically, culturally, and symbolically.”
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