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Grid issues lead to smaller NEK wind project

The developer of a planned Northeast Kingdom wind farm has decided to scale back the project by a third to lessen the impact on the transmission grid.

Seneca Mountain Wind had planned a 90 to 100 megawatt project with up to 35 turbines on ridgelines in Essex County and far northern Caledonia County. CEO Jack Kenworthy said the company is now looking at a 60 megawatt development.

“We have to do less in the way of upgrades if we brought the project down by a certain amount,” he said. “And that’s led us into a decision where going forward into the system impact study we’re now looking at 60 megawatts.”

The operator of the regional electric grid, ISO New England, will now study the upgrades needed to incorporate 60 megawatts into the electricity network in far northern Vermont. Other wind developers have been forced to make multi-million dollar investments for their projects to get hooked up to the grid.

Kenworthy said his company may also limit the development to the unincorporated towns and gores in Essex County, known as the UTGs. The original plan had called for the project to be located in Newark and Brighton as well.

Both those towns have organized opposition to the wind project.

By contrast, Kenworthy said Seneca Mountain’s proposal has more support in the sparsely populated unincorporated towns and gores.

“There was an indicative vote that was supportive of the project. And we want to get to a clarifying position on that vote so we can get to some certainty with respect to that area so we can move forward,” he said. “And I think there was a comment made at one of those meetings that it’s possible that the UTGs alone could support a wind project. And I think that statement is true. It is possible.”

Kenworthy said the company has also discussed making cash payments to residents and property owners of the UTGs. He said no final decision has been made about the project design or the payment amounts.