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Developer says wind project construction may begin in 2016

DEERFIELD VALLLEY- If all goes as Iberdrola Renewables plans, the Deerfield Wind project could start construction on 15 windmills as early as next year. However, there are still some regulatory actions that have to happen before work can commence in Readsboro or Searsburg. The primary regulatory hoop, according to both the wind-power developer and Wind-Action Group, an opponent of the project, is the need to have a price-purchase agreement with Green Mountain Power approved as part of a final review by the Public Service Board.

In 2009, the PSB issued Iberdrola Renewables a certificate of public good, but there are conditions on that CPG. As the PSB noted at the time, Iberdrola had not signed a power purchase with a distribution company, and would need to do so, and provide the terms of the agreement to the PSB for review. As part of a compliance filing, the board has received a proposed agreement with Green Mountain Power, which it announced in July. The board also has received comments from interveners opposed to the project, such as Lisa Linowes, of Wind-Action. “A critical piece is the review of the GMP power purchase agreement by the Public Service Board,” said Iberdrola Renewables Communications Manager Paul Copleman.

Linowes has intervener status and says that she has submitted challenges related to the power purchase agreement. According to Linowes, the 25-year agreement stipulates that GMP will purchase the electricity for 8.8 cents per kilowatt hour. “That’s a very long contract and it’s more expensive than most wind contracts. Most are under 8 cents and are for less time, closer to 15 years. This will be locking in utility and rate payers to potentially high rates. Especially with natural gas prices being as low as they are, and expected to remain low for the next 10 years, this agreement is disadvantageous to ratepayers.”

Dorothy Schnure, spokesperson for Green Mountain Power, disagreed. “Opponents are going to say what they are going to say. We have reviewed the claims from Wind-Action and their comparisons are flawed. We are certainly aware that fossil fuel prices are changing and we have taken that into account in our analysis of the value to our customers. Our analysis demonstrates clear benefits and value for our customers for now and over the life of the project.”

While the price of propane may have some impact on the PSB’s decision, the board also noted in 2009 when it originally granted the CPG that the proposed project could aid the state’s efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

“The new source (of energy) will help meet the state’s goals of increasing reliance upon renewable energy.”

Linowes also said that she had filed other challenges that the board is to consider before issuing its final ruling, related to the proposed height of the windmills, that she says was changed subsequent to the initial issuance of the CPG. “The turbines are taller, and have a greater visual effect, and also a different noise signature. It may be out of compliance, and we want the PSB to reinvestigate.”

According to PSB clerk Susan M. Hudson, no date has been set for the board’s decision.