-Following the Law Court’s decision on First Wind and Emera, Maine Department of Environmental Protection reviews Oakfield Wind, Hancock Wind, Bingham Wind and Bowers Wind projects’ financial capacity-
AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has reviewed the Maine Supreme Judicial Court’s March 4, 2014 decision that vacated the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s approval of the joint venture between First Wind and Emera.
This decision affects four wind-energy developments by First Wind in Maine: the Oakfield Wind project in Aroostook County; the Hancock Wind project in Hancock County; the Bingham Wind project in Somerset County; and the Bowers Wind project in Penobscot and Washington Counties.
Each of these First Wind projects is in a different phase of the permitting or construction process with DEP, but each had a portion of their financing funded by Emera.
Construction on the Oakfield Wind project is underway. The Hancock Wind project has been approved by DEP, but construction has not yet commenced. The Bingham Wind project application materials are now under review by DEP, and the Bowers Wind project has been denied by DEP, but that decision is under appeal to the Board of Environmental Protection.
On March 12 and 13, 2014, DEP issued letters to First Wind for three of the affected projects (Oakfield, Hancock and Bingham), stating the department’s concern that the project financing has been affected by the Supreme Court’s decision. DEP has requested that revised materials be submitted to describe how DEP’s financial capacity requirements will be met within 60 days.
Submission of revised financial capacity documents for the Bowers Wind project need to wait until after the conclusion of the appeal process.
A condition of DEP’s January 17, 2012, approval of the Oakfield Wind project required First Wind to submit final financing materials to the DEP prior to the start of construction activities. First Wind provided those materials to DEP on September 6, 2013, and a condition compliance order was granted to First Wind on October 7, 2013, approving their proposed financing package.
A portion of that financing package included contributions from Emera. In its March 13, 2014 letter, DEP requested that First Wind provide alternative financing documents describing how project construction will be financed without potential contributions from Emera.
Although not required for the final financing package, in the fall of 2013 First Wind also posted a restoration letter of credit to DEP to fully restore the site as additional security in the event that construction is not completed.
Similar to the condition of the Oakfield Wind project, the department’s approval of Hancock Wind in 2013 requires that First Wind submit final financing materials to DEP prior to the start of construction activities.
DEP has not received written responses to these letters, but is working aggressively with First Wind to ensure all license standards are met.
Background on Financial Capacity for Wind Energy Projects:
Applicants for a wind-energy project must demonstrate financial capacity for construction, maintenance and decommissioning costs. This can be in the form of a performance bond, surety bond, letter of credit or other financial assurance acceptable to the department.
As allowed under its regulations, DEP can insert a condition in approvals for wind-energy projects that the applicant submits to the department a final financial package prior to the commencement of any construction activities to ensure that the applicant has the appropriate resources to construct, maintain and decommission the proposed project.