Vermont, its largest utility and the entity that operates the New England power grid continue to have their differences over where wind power fits in.
Last week, Gov. Peter Shumlin wrote to ISO-New England calling for better integration of renewable energy into the grid after ISO ordered Green Mountain Power to curtail production at its Kingdom Community Wind project in Lowell during a heat wave while increasing the use of fuel-fired plants.
This week, ISO President Gordon van Welie responded, saying that Green Mountain Power was well aware it would be asked to curtail power in Lowell because of weak transmission lines in the Northeast Kingdom.
“On Friday, the 19th, the peak day for that week, the ISO curtailed KCW (Kingdom Community Wind) to avoid operating the transmission system unreliably,” van Welie said in the letter back to Shumlin sent late Tuesday.
ISO directed Green Mountain Power to install a condenser to solve some of those issues. The utility argues the condenser is unnecessary but is installing one due for completion in December. Van Welie indicated in his letter that the condenser will likely mean curtailing the Lowell project less often, but not entirely because the power is still centered in a rural area with little power demand and low-level transmission lines.
Green Mountain Power Corp. spokesman Robert Dostis said ISO-New England is only telling part of the story.
“The part of the story they didn’t tell is that we, Green Mountain Power, began working with them back in 2009,” Dostis said. Not until 2011, after the project had one approval and construction had started, did ISO inform the utility that it would have to install a condenser, he said.
Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia also said ISO’s late-in-the-process requirement was problematic.
Recchia sounded a more conciliatory tone toward ISO-New England, however. “I appreciate their willingness to meet. We’re going to work with them,” he said.
Van Welie said in his letter that curtailing wind from the Lowell project allowed the grid to accept renewable energy from other providers.
Recchia said the state hasn’t been able to corroborate that, but even if some other renewables were used, Green Mountain Power still was being directed to amp up its dirtier fuel-fired power.
Van Welie contended that ISO-New England has made several moves in recent years to integrate renewable into the system. “I believe we are making very good progress in this area,” van Welie said.
Dostis said Green Mountain Power believes progress could be better. “They’ve been studying integration for years,” he said. “It really is time for them to demonstrate results.”
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