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Wind opponents lament failed Vermont policies  

Credit:  Robin Smith, Staff Writer, The Orleans Record, orleanscountyrecord.com 16 July 2011 ~~

NEWPORT CITY – Opponents of the Lowell wind project say the state’s renewable energy polices are experiments doomed to fail.

Green Mountain Power and its partner, Vermont Electric Cooperative, invested in the Lowell wind project because the state required a portfolio that included a percentage of Vermont-based renewable energy sources. And federal tax credits make it financially possible.

And that state policy, said Lowell wind opponent Dr. Ron Holland of Irasburg, was an experiment that has driven wrong-headed policies.

“They are set up to fail,” Holland told co-op members Thursday evening at North Country Career Center.

Renewable energy sources in Vermont are too expensive compared to others that are available, he said during an informational meeting about the mail-in vote on the proposed upgrade of a VEC power line from Lowell to Jay.

He said the utilities shouldn’t just follow such policies, that there is no real penalty if they can’t meet the goals set by the Legislature.

“If we don’t meet the goal, the sky doesn’t fall,” Holland said.

And when the policies by the state fail, the utilities would then be free to buy cheaper renewable energy elsewhere, he said.

The problem with that argument, VEC officials said, is that it is directed at the utilities, which don’t make state policy.

“We’re not here to set policy. We are here to follow policy,” said Elizabeth Gamache, VEC spokeswoman.

The plan to upgrade the power line through the Jay-Lowell area would transform the reliability and redundancy of the system in an area that is growing and needs it, said Jeff Wright, VEC chief operating officer.

Michael Ladd of Glover said he understood that Lowell wind opponents want to send a message to the Legislature through a no vote on the upgrade.

However, he said the no vote would hurt VEC members because the co-op will have to pay for the upgrade in the future.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s experimental or a fairy tale.” Ladd said.

Ladd is a candidate for the VEC board of directors in an election for District 3, which serves the area around the Lowell ridge line where GMP wants to erect 21 wind turbines.

GMP has a certificate of public good from state regulators for the turbines and for the power line upgrade to carry the electricity from the turbines.

However, VEC, as a co-operative, requires a vote of the membership to do a line upgrade with another utility, VEC officials said.

Anyone who has a VEC meter or meters and pays a bill to VEC is a member and has a vote, whether an individual, business owner, renter, municipality or non-profit organization.

Kevin McGrath, an abutting landowner of the Lowell wind project, questioned whether the power line upgrade really was necessary.

He asked if Jay Peak Resort is in dire need of the upgrade.

Wright said that Jay Peak Resort would benefit from existing substation upgrades underway. The proposed upgrade to the power line will create a connection that doesn’t exist today that will offer redundancy to the area – enhancing reliability, Wright said.

The state regulators on the Public Service Board have ruled that the power line upgrade is in the public good for the area.

Bill Stenger, Jay Peak Resort president and co-owner, said at the meeting that the resort relies on electricity for lights and operations but depends on propane for heating and cooling all of its facilities.

A recent day-long power loss from a substation explosion did not melt the ice at the Icehaus arena because of that, Stenger said.

The facilities all have back-up generators as well, he said.

John Ferrara complained that appraisers approached him about his property values.

GMP and VEC are attempting to secure easements on property for rights of way along the power line route. Most of the new line follows the existing line.

Gamache said she understood that members need better information from those conducting the property appraisals.

The mail-in ballots went out last week and are due back at the tabulating firm by July 25. If the vote is in favor of the upgrade, the construction of the Lowell wind project is more likely to begin soon, Wright said.

If it is rejected, the Jay substation will still be operational. However, the rest of the upgrade will have to wait another seven years, he said.

And opponents hope that a no vote would delay the Lowell wind project so long while GMP seeks alternative transmission lines that it would no longer receive federal tax credits and be killed before construction is complete.

GMP has said that it can build without VEC’s line.

As for the state policies on green energy, Holland said that the only policies that will address global warming are on a national and international scale: cap and trade of carbon emissions or a carbon tax.

Holland said he didn’t believe the Lowell wind project would be financially feasible either way.

The final informational meeting about the upgrade vote is 6:30 p.m. Monday at Albany Community School.

VEC officials urge anyone who has made up their mind to vote now to make sure that their ballots are counted.

Also in the mail-in ballot are questions to affirm VEC’s Hydro-Quebec contract and to establish what amounts to a dividend program.

Source:  Robin Smith, Staff Writer, The Orleans Record, orleanscountyrecord.com 16 July 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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