December 30, 2013

Recap 2013: Vermont Yankee, renewable energy caps and wind projects stir controversy

John Herrick | Dec. 29, 2013 |

Wind power companies were dealt several setbacks this year – from the regional grid operator that curtailed power output this summer and local opposition to ridgeline projects.

Last summer ISO New England announced it has been curtailing power output from several of the state’s wind power producers to maintain grid reliability.

The CEO of ISO New England said the grid cannot fully support the state’s 21-turbine Lowell Mountain Wind Project during peak demand due to transmission line limitations. As a result, Green Mountain Power, operator of the project, compensated for the curtailments by firing up diesel and jet-fuel generators across the state.

Grid officials have repeatedly said that Green Mountain Power’s Kingdom Community Wind (KCW) project, the state’s largest 63-megawatt wind farm, is tied into a weak point in the grid.

The 10-megawatt Georgia Mountain Community Wind Project has also seen curtailments. Wind developer David Blittersdorf, the founder and CEO of AllEarth Renewables, said he would bill ISO $5,490 for a night’s lost generation.

The Shumlin administration has said the curtailments are affecting ratepayers and could hamper the state’s actualization of its goal to source 90 percent of its power from renewables by 2050.

The spat between the administration and ISO New England came as wind developers aim to build a 60-megawatt project, Seneca Mountain Wind.

The Public Service Board allowed two MET towers in Brighton, one in Ferdinand and one in Newark, to measure the wind potential for the proposed Seneca Mountain Wind project in the Northeast Kingdom despite a September 169-59 town vote to amend the town plan to oppose large-scale wind development.

The proposed project could face curtailments because it plugs into the same section of the grid as the Lowell project. Meanwhile, lawmakers are considering attempts to block more wind development.

For the past two legislative sessions, Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, has pushed for a moratorium on utility-scale wind developments. At the outset of the 2013 session, he warned that large wind projects were pushing the capacity of the northern Vermont grid.

Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, who chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, said he does not expect to see another large-scale wind project for 10 to 15 years.

Some towns are concerned that the board’s permitting process does not include enough public input under Section 248, the state statute guiding energy generation and transmission siting procedures. The Vermont Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission’s April report recommended several revisions to the permitting process. One of the commission’s suggestions to improve transparency is to give the board a case manager, who would serve as a spokesperson for the board. A review of the state’s permitting procedure is expected this session.

The Vermont Supreme Court recently denied an appeal by six protesters convicted of trespassing at the site of Green Mountain Power’s Lowell Mountain Wind project. Commonly referred to as the “Lowell Six,” none of whom had a criminal record, were protesting the construction of KCW with permission from an adjacent property owner. The protesters crossed a no-trespass line posted by the utility. They were arrested in the December 2011 incident.

[rest of article available at source]

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