LYNDONVILLE – Despite pleas from Newark town officials and many Northeast Kingdom residents to wait, the Lyndonville Trustees unanimously gave Lyndonville Electric Department Manager Ken Mason permission to enter into an agreement with wind developer Seneca Mountain Wind Monday evening
That agreement, called a Memorandum of Understanding, was the subject of more than two hours of discussion, debate and, finally, pleading to not have LED enter the MOU with Seneca Mountain Wind, a co-development project proposed by Eolian Renewable Energy of Portsmouth, N.H., and Chicago-based turbine manufacturer Nordex, USA.
The project is now in its early stages, with a pending application for a Certificate of Public Good before the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) for four meteorological towers to be erected to test wind conditions.
Early plans called for industrial-scale turbines to be installed in Newark, Brighton and Ferdinand, but the developers now appear to be focusing their energies on Ferdinand, though they have not committed to abandoning interest in Brighton and Newark, where revised town plans state the communities do not want to host an industrial wind project.
Before the trustees made their decision, they listened to Kerrick Johnson, vice president of external affairs for the Vermont Electric Power Company, who addressed grid capacity and reliability concerns in the Northeast Kingdom and fielded many questions from those with concerns about a third potential wind project taking root in the region.
Johnson focused on concerns raised recently about grid capacity and VELCO’s position on new wind farm projects, also addressed in a letter dated Friday that was sent by VELCO President and CEO Chris Dutton and sent out to LED Manager Ken Mason.
LED has been in talks with SMW about the Memorandum of Understanding, which sets forth an agreement to further explore a possible inter-connection of the wind project to the LED/VELCO substation in Lyndon.
The VELCO view on the Seneca Mountain project on the table was discussed, and in Dutton’s letter to Mason, he stated, “…We do not know definitively what transmission grid reinforcements would be required for the Seneca Mountain project to interconnect, or whether, if pursued, the output of the project would be curtailed or there would be an impact on the operations of other generators such as Kingdom Community Wind [in Lowell] or First Wind’s Sheffield wind farm. That is because the studies needed to make such determinations have not been completed or, in some cases, undertaken.”
Johnson explained VELCO’s role in the state power picture, and that of the grid operator ISO-New England, where the SMW project is seeking approval to add a 60 MW, scaled back, wind project to the transmission grid.
Johnson explained that there are challenges to the grid in this region and any new generator coming will have to pay for the improvements to add their power to the system. Johnson said there are three things at work: old wires, a limited demand in this region for power, and the fact that adding a significant source of new power to that system could put reliability in jeopardy, given the infrastructure and conditions.
“We have sought to share with the world the fact that we’re at capacity for this region, so anyone considering entering into this competitive wholesale market will know you’re likely to get a bill of some kind, so just know that ahead of time so you’re not wasting anyone’s time,” explained Johnson.
Rob Pforzheimer of Sutton was critical of SMW’s track record, and said they were asked to leave a project they hoped to develop in Maine, and they recently lost a bid for a project in Antrim, N.H. “They’ve never done a project,” he said. “What makes you think they could put out all that money?”
“It just seems to me that it’s premature,” stressed Kim Fried, chairman of Newark’s Planning Commission. “If it looks like this project is going to move forward maybe that would be a more appropriate time to sign an MOU.”
Kathleen Nelson of Brighton added, I’m just asking you please to delay signing the MOU until you learn a little more about these people.” She asked the trustees to ask SMW to leave.
“I don’t think we have a right to ask them to leave,” added Mason.
“Will you ask them anyway?” Nelson repeated.
Cynthia Barber of Newark, a leader in the Newark Neighbors United group, said, “If you don’t sign it, they’re going to have to rush procedures…I don’t think it’s practical not to sign it.”
Mason, before the vote was taken, said, “I wouldn’t be making this suggested recommendation to my board if I didn’t think it was prudent. Again, we’re faced with choices. To me, the MOU is a pretty simple thing. I know the emotions are high, but I wouldn’t recommend this to my board if I thought it was detrimental to LED. Their vote is only to let LED operate prudently, period.”
A representative of SMW will be at the trustees next meeting, on April 29, at 6 p.m. in the lower level conference room of the Lyndon Municipal Building; the public is welcome at that meeting to attend and ask questions, Mason said at the close of Monday’s meeting.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding