November 28, 2012

Last Lowell turbine commissioned

By Laura Carpenter | November 27, 2012 | The Newport Daily Express |

LOWELL – The 21st and final wind turbine in Green Mountain Power’s (GMP) wind project on Lowell Mountain was commissioned November 20, effectively securing $44-million in Federal Production Tax Credits. The tax credits will go to GMP over a ten-year period and every penny is a cost savings to the consumers, GMP spokesperson Dotty Schnure said.

The power produced will cost about 9 to 10 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) with the tax credits. But GMP will also likely sell renewable energy credits (RECS) for additional income, which will allow them to drop the price further.

Right now RECS are selling for about five cents per kWh, which would lower the cost to around four to five cents per kWh.

RECS are based on the concept that a renewable power generator produces two outputs: electricity and an environmental benefit. The environmental benefit, which is represented by a certificate, has an assigned value. That credit can then be sold, either directly or indirectly, to other power producers who do not have enough credits to create energy using more traditional methods.

The final Lowell turbine was constructed in October but, following construction, GMP had to perform electrical work to prepare the turbine for its job as part of the commissioning process.

All 21 wind turbines are capable of generating power, but there is more work to do. The process from construction to a fully operational plant is not over, but it will be soon. More testing and work is underway, and at times some turbines are shut down for necessary work and “fine tuning.”

The project is in Vermont Electric Cooperatives’ (VEC) territory, and VEC will buy a portion of power generated at cost from GMP.

The project was supported by the majority of Lowell voters, but the plans created controversy mainly from those in nearby towns. Protests took place and activists were arrested. The legal battles continue. Today, Chris Braithwaite, publisher of the Barton Chronicle, is in court preparing for trial. He was arrested for trespassing on Lowell Mountain while covering a protest.

Now there are noise complaints. Recently a group of about 30 residents sent a letter to the Department of Public Service complaining of disruptive noise from the turbines over a weekend in early November. Schnure said that during that time wet snow built up on the turbines blades. The temperature was around 32 degrees with low cloud cover. This scenario is thought to have caused the noise. Conditions will be monitored and GMP can control operations in order to prevent the same problem in the future, Schnure said, adding that temperatures are expected to be much colder in the coming months.

GMP has strict guidelines for sound and a protocol to follow when responding to noise complaints, Schnure stated. GMP wants those with complaints to contact them as soon as possible to discuss the situation.

Kevin McGrath lives on Farm Road in Lowell and his property abuts the wind farm. He works out of the area and returned to his home November 24. At about 3 a.m. he said he and four of his house guests were all awakened by a continuous thumping noise, similar to the sound of a heavy object rolling around in clothes dryer. The sound lasted for two hours, and he said it came from the wind turbines. The next morning at about 10a.m. he said he heard what sounded like large amounts of water pouring outside his home. Again he blames the turbines.

Schnure said Tuesday that neither she nor the person who handles noise complaints with GMP had heard of the complaint.

McGrath said he believes he was the only home owner around at that time; the others are seasonal residents.

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