DUMMER – From a electrical contractor in Berlin to an equipment rental business in Gorham, a dozen contractors from Coos County worked on the construction of the Granite Reliable Power wind farm this year.
Work on the largest wind farm in the state is wrapping up with all 33 wind turbines installed and in the process of being commissioned. Brookfield Renewable Power Director of Communications Julie Smith-Galvin said she expects the entire facility to be operating commercially by the end of this year.
Smith-Galvin said there are about 35 people still employed doing limited work on site. There are also nine permanent site technicians in place to run the wind farm. Some final landscaping and stabilization work will be performed next spring.
“The majority of the project will be complete and we’ll come back in the spring for tree planting and some additional restoration,” said Pip Decker, during a recent tour of the wind farm. Decker served as project manager, starting when Noble Environmental Power first proposed the wind farm and continuing when Brookfield Renewable Power became majority owner.
Site clearing for the wind farm got under way in early February and construction started in mid-May. At the height of the construction, there were about 300 people employed on the project which is in Dummer and the unincorporated places of Millsfield, Dixville, Odell and Erving’s Location.
Smith-Galvin said she is still working on getting a breakdown of local labor used on the project. But she said the general contractor on the project, RMT Inc. of Madison, Wisc., said about 70 percent of the total work hours on the project were performed by 25 contractors from New England. Of that list, 12 of the contractors were from Coos County and another three were from Grafton County.
From Coos County, the contractors hired for the project were AB Logging of Lancaster, Aerial Site Communications of Gorham, Coleman Concrete of Gorham, Great North Woods Container Service of Berlin, Hicks Logging of Jefferson, Isaacson Steel of Berlin, JML Trucking and Excavating of Errol, Kel-Log Inc. of Berlin, ProQuip Equipment Rental and Sales of Gorham, Ray’s Electric of Berlin, Route 12V of Berlin, and Shaw Communications of Gorham.
From Grafton County, the contractors were Horizons Engineering of Littleton, Lobdell Associates of Landoff, and Meadow Leasing of Littleton.
The project also contracted with the Coos County Sheriff’s Department for security.
The 33-turbines are arranged in four strings along Dixville Peak, Mount Kelsey, Owlhead Mountain and Fishbrook Ridge. From the base to the tip of the blades, each turbine is 410 feet high. The Danish company Vestas Operations Group, which will operate the wind farm for two years, manufactured the turbines. The 3-megawatt turbines were transported in components through the region for much of the summer.
Decker said the project required the construction of 11 miles of new gravel road and the upgrading of 19 miles of existing road. Along the way, he said over 200 new culverts and six new bridges were installed. The project used a combination of wooden poles and laminated poles, ranging from 40 to 60 feet high, to carry the transmission line from the turbines to the substation. Decker said the project was able to reduce the need for guide wires by utilizing the right of way as part of the corridor. Transmission wires along the ridge line were buried.
Six miles in on Dummer Pond Road is the operations/maintenance building and substation for the project. The full-time crew will work out of the maintenance building. Two Snow-Cats have been purchased and are on-site to allow the crew to do maintenance and preventative work during the winter.
The 12-acre yard around the building and substation, which was used as a staging area for the turbines and equipment, will be restored next spring with plantings.
Noting the project was constructed in less than a year, Decker said it was both a well-coordinated project and a big team effort.
Despite the tight schedule, Decker said safety was a top priority. At the time of the tour, he noted the project had gone 263 days without a lost-time accident.
Asked for a final project cost, Smith-Galvin said it was within the industry average of between $2 million to $3 million a megawatt or $198 million to $297 million for the 99-megawatt wind farm.
She said GRP has contracts for over 80 percent of the power that will be generated by the project – it has been previously announced that both Central Vermont Power Service and Green Mountain Power will purchase a majority of the power produced. Smith-Garvin said the reminder of the power will be sold into the New England Power Pool’s open market.
Smith-Galvin had no comment on a New York Times newspaper article that estimated the wind farm had received so many federal subsidies that they covered 48 to 80 percent of the price of the project, which the article placed at $229 million.
In the future, Smith-Galvin said she expects to have more details on the local economic impacts of the project.