August 27, 2011

Derby wind clears hurdle

Robin Smith, Staff Writer, The Orleans Record, 26 August 2011

DERBY – Developers received confirmation this week that local electricity lines and substations can support up to three large wind turbines on the grassy hills above Derby Line.

Encore Redevelopment and its partners now plan to seek state permits to erect two turbines under a state program designed to spur small renewable energy projects.

A feasibility study by Vermont Electric Cooperative about the capacity of local power lines and substations was a critical hurdle for the Derby wind project.

“This is good news for the project,” said Chad Farrell, Encore Redevelopment’s principal partner.

“This gives us a green light to apply for two certificates of public good” from the Vermont Public Service Board, Farrell said.

The developers unveiled their plans earlier this summer.

One 425-foot turbine would go on the Grand View Farm owned by the Davis family and the other on the Chase farm – both on the U.S.-Canadian border. Both 2.2-megawatt turbines would be visible in parts of Holland and from Interstate 91 and the U.S. port of entry and some eastern neighborhoods in Derby Line. They also would be visible in Stanstead, Quebec.

A third turbine was initially proposed for the Letourneau farm but is not being pursued this year.

Unlike the large wind projects on the wooded ridge lines of Sheffield and Lowell, these are proposed for open farm fields.

Only a few people expressed concern at the July 12 meeting in Derby Line. Others said they supported the idea that farmers would see revenues from wind turbines on their hilltop fields.

Encore and partners have set a goal of Sept. 9 to begin the formal application process, Farrell said.

Once developers start the application process, they have 45 days to formally alert the town of Derby and Northeastern Vermont Development Association about the project.

At the same time the developers intend to discuss tax revenues from the project with the town of Derby and mitigation payments with other communities.

In the meantime, the developers are doing site plan work with engineers and a visual impact analysis, Farrell said.

He does not believe that the sites will involve wetlands permits because these are open hillsides already used for pastureland.

They hope to have state approval by January 2011, hire contractors and order turbines in the spring, and then build roads and erect the towers by the fall of 2012. They want the project online by the end of 2012 to benefit from federal production tax credits as well.

The $11 million project would have the capacity to generate enough electricity to supply 900 homes.

VEC’s study shows that both the Derby and West Charleston substations can handle the extra electrical load from two or three turbines, Farrell said.

The Derby station is closer to the project and would be “more amenable” because there would be less line work and a smaller impact on the system, he said.

The developers want to price out both options, he said.

That both substations could handle electricity from three turbines is good news, Farrell said.

The developers have to have the two turbines operating by January 2013 to qualify for the state’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development program, which was created in 2005 and updated in 2009 to spur renewable energy projects.

The Derby wind project would be the first wind project developed under the SPEED program, Farrell said.

The SPEED program drew so much interest that many developers stepped forward. Utilities are required to pay higher costs for renewable projects of a smaller size – of 2.2 megawatts of electricity or less – under the SPEED program.

The wind turbines on the Davis and Chase farms each made it onto the SPEED list. A turbine for the nearby Letourneau farm did not.

“The SPEED queue is full,” Farrell said.

Farrell said he believes that the Vermont Department of Public Service will recommend an expansion of the SPEED program as part of a statewide energy plan that is expected to be unveiled this fall.

And that would make the third Derby turbine a feasible project for another year, he said.

URL to article: