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Vermont wind power owner upset with grid operator

A co-owner of a Vermont mountaintop wind power project is complaining that his turbines were ordered to stop sending electricity to the grid in favor of power produced by fossil fuel and nuclear plants.

In a letter written Monday to the head of regional grid operator ISO New England, David Blittersdorf said the decision to “curtail” power from his four-turbine Georgia Community Wind project and other Vermont wind farms was “counter to common sense and simply unsustainable.”

He sent ISO New England a bill for the $5,490 Georgia Wind lost by not being able to sell power during the six-hour shutdown.

“It is our firm belief that renewable generation should be considered ‘must take’ generation sources,” said the letter to ISO New England President Gordon van Welie. “Otherwise, as happened Sunday night and early Monday morning this week, finite fossil fuel sources are burned at a time when forever-lost wind energy is forced to shut down.”

Blittersdorf said Tuesday he doubted the bill would be paid, but he wanted to get the attention of ISO New England. He said the grid operator should ensure that renewable sources of power – wind, solar and hydro – are used first.

“When the wind blows and the water flows and the sun’s out, the grid has to take the resource,” he said. “People can forecast pretty reasonably what the resource is going to be day-to-day, all you’ve got to do is look at the weather forecast and you’ll get an idea of what’s coming.”

On Sunday night, the weather was mild and demand for power was low, ISO New England spokesman Marcia Bloomberg said in an email. The organization determined the grid was close to the point where it was getting too much power, so it ordered some producers to cut back – a situation that isn’t unusual in spring and fall.

Bloomberg said ISO New England completed a study in 2010 about how to integrate renewable energy into the grid and officials are now working to incorporate some of the suggestions.

“We continue to prepare for the growth of wind and other renewables on the New England power system,” Bloomberg said.

This week’s power curtailment is separate from an issue raised by Vermont’s Green Mountain Power earlier this year. In that case, the utility’s 21-turbine Lowell Mountain wind project was cut back during a July heat wave. But the issue then was the ability of the grid to handle the power being generated in a remote part of the state, not an excess of power.

Nevertheless, Green Mountain Power spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said the utility shared Blittersdorf’s desire to see renewable energy placed ahead of less environmentally friendly sources of power. GMP had some of its wind projects and some of its hydro projects curtailed as well on Sunday night, she said.

“We are engaged with the ISO about how to make that happen, although there is a long way to go,” Schnure said.