The Vermont Public Service Board also gave the go-ahead this week for an upgrade to transmission lines in Orleans County that will benefit Vermont Electric Cooperative’s members.
The board approved 16.9 miles of transmission lines and upgrades along with substation upgrades in Lowell, Westfield and Jay as part of the certificate of public good for the Lowell wind project called Kingdom Community Wind.
The approval would accelerate needed upgrades on lines that are 40 years old and nearing the end of their optimal life, VEC officials said Thursday afternoon. VEC members will be asked to vote on the upgrades in July.
The upgrades would improve electrical reliability for the western part of Orleans County, including Jay Peak Resort, and provide a foundation for future economic growth in the region, officials said.
At the same time, the upgraded line and substations would allow VEC to conduct the electricity produced by the 21 turbines that Green Mountain Power plans to erect on the Lowell ridge line by 2012.
The collaboration between VEC and GMP means that VEC members will not have to bear the full cost of replacing the transmission facilities, VEC officials said.
GMP would pay for 58 percent of the $12 million in upgrades to transmission lines and substations if the upgrades gain approval of VEC members in a special vote to be held in July, VEC officials said.
VEC leaders and board members are expected to conduct meetings soon with members throughout northern Vermont about the pending vote.
Meanwhile, the utilities are seeking state permits for storm-water runoff and water quality impacts during construction of the upgrades.
The PSB decision has accelerated the implementation timeline for this project, which is part of VEC’s long-range capital plan and had previously been planned for 2018, VEC officials said.
“This transmission project to improve electrical reliability to VEC members in Orleans County is important because reliable power is essential to the economic well-being in these communities and beyond,” said David Hallquist, VEC chief executive officer. “Electric infrastructure improvements can help to attract new businesses and jobs.”
When implemented, Kingdom Community Wind is expected to contribute about 4 percent of the electricity in VEC’s total power supply portfolio – at cost – for 25 years, VEC officials said.
The wind project in Lowell will also help VEC to meet the state’s requirement that utilities develop power supply portfolios that include a renewable energy source component of at least 20 percent, VEC officials said.
“In addition to reliability improvements, VEC members will benefit from stably priced renewable power at the lowest cost currently available,” Hallquist said.
“In fact, the price of Kingdom Community Wind renewable power will decrease over time which will help us to control future rate increases to VEC ratepayers. This initiative has long-term benefits for coop members and we view this as a valuable part of VEC’s future power supply portfolio,” he said.
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