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Green Mountain Power requests modifications to Lowell permit conditions

Green Mountain Power asked the Public Service Board in a filing Tuesday to give it more time to comply with four of the conditions required under a recently issued permit for the Kingdom Community Wind project on Lowell Mountain. The company also asked that one of the conditions be eliminated.

The four conditions must be met before construction commences on the wind farm.

GMP told the board that unless the deadlines for these conditions are changed, the company will not finish the project in time to qualify for federal production tax credits that will expire if the project is not complete at the end of 2012.

Kingdom Community Wind consists of up to 21 turbines in Lowell on Lowell Mountain and is expected to generate as much electricity annually as is used by more than 20,000 homes. Transmission facilities and service roads are to be built in Lowell, with new transmission facilities in Lowell, Westfield and Jay. Total construction costs are estimated to be $136 million to $153 million. GMP is running the project in partnership with Vermont Electric Cooperative.

One of the more controversial issues related to the wind farm has been potential fragmentation of bear habitat in the region. GMP and the Agency of Natural Resources reached an agreement in which the utility would secure easements on corridors of land to connect habitat areas with one another, so bears could move freely from one habitat island to another. GMP has requested that the board allow the company more time (until the operation begins) because officials say it could take many months to purchase the necessary easements.

Brice Simon, attorney for the Lowell Mountain Group, which opposes the project, said that GMP’s request “confirms that they would have difficulty meeting all the conditions on the CPG (Certificate of Public Good, or state permit) issued by the Public Service Board. Green Mountain Power’s request also calls into question whether the project can be cost effective, given both their time constraints and the requirements of the Public Service Board’s order.” He raised the prospect that easements might prove to be so expensive that they could throw off the cost calculations for the project.

Green Mountain Power did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The other conditions that GMP wants the Board to modify are:
• GMP will provide first responders in the region with specialized equipment that they might need to respond to emergencies arising from the wind farm or its construction. GMP wants to push the deadline for providing the equipment back until something is happening at the site for which specialized equipment is needed.
• GMP will complete a study showing that the 63 MW facility will not cause problems for the electrical grid’s reliability and stability; GMP wants to have until Oct. 1 to submit that study.
• A required archaeological study, which they want to submit after they obtain access to archaeologically sensitive land, with no deadline for when they obtain that access.

GMP wants the board to drop a requirement that the company upgrade the electrical network based on information an earlier feasibility study. GMP argues that the reliability and stability study they are conducting will supersede the earlier study’s recommendations.

GMP’s legal brief noted that the Vermont Supreme Court has advised that the Public Service Board’s power to modify its judgments “should be used with great caution,” but they argue that they could not have anticipated that the board would have required them to meet these conditions before construction begins.