Vermont wind energy project okayed; Regulator approves contentious 20-turbine project in Northeast Kingdom
A controversial Vermont wind energy project led by a Gaz Métro-owned utility has been approved by the state regulator.
The Vermont Public Service Board approved, with conditions, the contentious 20 turbine project centred in the town of Lowell, in the state’s Northeast Kingdom region.
The Certificate of Public Good, issued late Tuesday, paves the way for the $160-million venture led by Green Mountain Power, which is owned by Montreal-based Gaz Métro.
“We see it as resounding support for our project,” Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell said in an interview.
“This is going to produce the lowest cost renewable energy for our customers that they have seen in a long time.”
The cost to clients was pegged at 10 cents per kWh in submissions to the board, Powell said.
But the final cost will be “probably significantly” lower, she said.
Conditions raised by the board will not interfere with plans to begin construction in August and have the 63 megawatt project up and running before the end of 2012, Powell said.
Project opponents counted 42 conditions laid out by the board and say their battle against the plan to plant turbines and transmission lines along miles of untouched mountain ridgelines is far from over.
“With a project of this size and scope, it simply does not deserve a Certificate of Public Good until the details are determined,” Lukas Snelling, spokesman for Energize Vermont, said.
“We doubt GMP can comply with all the conditions of this permit and anticipate that many of them will lead to further controversy and possibly litigation.”
Among the individuals and entities who argued against the project were Albany and Craftsbury, the towns that border the project.
Gaz Métro is to earn a nineper-cent return on its investment in the project.
In its 181-page order, the Vermont board reviewed the various positions.
It concluded that the project, with its 25-year lifespan, will help the state meet renewable energy goals.
And it “will create an economic benefit to the state and its residents.”
In particular, the venture will provide increased tax revenues, economic benefits and jobs, most of which will be stay in the region, which has the state’s highest unemployment rate, the board said.
Key conditions that are being required by the board relate to mitigation of certain environmental impacts and ensuring there is a sufficient fund to properly decommission the project upon cessation of commercial operations.
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