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‘Progress’ seen at Groton Wind inspection

GROTON – Investigators from the state Fire Marshal’s Office and other state agency officials inspecting the Groton Wind LLC wind-energy plant Thursday found the company has made “a lot of forward progress” on meeting compliance requirements and avoiding a threatened state-ordered shutdown.

The state’s findings were a bit of a surprise, said Assistant Attorney General Diane Martin. The state Fire Marshal and Groton Wind had been in a dispute about proper fire suppression technology needed for each of the plant’s 24 wind turbines.

But inspectors on Thursday found that the fire marshal’s required fire suppression systems had been installed on 14 of the 400-foot turbines’ housing, despite an earlier claim by Groton Wind that the onboard fire suppression systems were sufficient.

The fire marshal told the state’s Site Evaluation Committee, which is threatening to remove the plant’s license and shut it down, that an independent fire suppression system was required by state codes.

“When we saw that 14 of the 24 turbines on the nacelles, we were very encouraged, because that was a big point of contention,” Martin said.

The state’s Site Evaluation Committee has threatened to close the plant and remove its operating certificate because the company and its parent corporation, Spanish wind giant Iberdrola Renewables, failed to get permits for its plant and operations structure from appropriate state agencies when the plant was built in 2011.

The SEC licensed the $120 million, 48-megawatt plant in 2011. The plant went online in late December 2012.

Groton Wind and Iberdrola officials initially said that the company satisfied the SEC’s building requirements by filing for and receiving appropriate permits for its buildings, road system and its 400-foot wind turbines with the Department of Environmental Services.

But as hearings were held by the SEC this spring on the request from the Fire Marshal’s Office to remove the plant’s certificate, a compliance agreement was reached between the fire marshal and Groton Wind, which state officials say will satisfy many of the plant’s cited deficiencies.

As part of the agreement, Groton Wind is required to install sufficient fire suppression systems by June 23.

Aside from the fire suppression systems, inspectors found that the company made “significant progress” in other areas, Martin said. If the plant continues to meet the agreement’s provisions, the dispute with the fire marshal may be solved. That would effectively take care of about one-third of the plant’s alleged faults, which are being scrutinized by the SEC in ongoing hearings.

The state Attorney General’s Office and several “intervenors” in the hearings process are still pursuing claims that the company improperly built its operations and maintenance building has not provided a satisfactory and safe road system.

A spokesman for Iberdrola Renewables said the company is working had to meet the stipulations of the compliance agreement.